The Pod that gets you a job

Wednesday 20 April 2016 TECHMIX NEWS

"The world's first immersive work experience simulator" - Barclays Lifeskills

Hope Lowe

Sat behind your desk in school, drumming your fingers on the table and pretending to listen; there’s a fine art to making your face say “you have my full attention and I’m in deep contemplative thought”, whilst really you’re deciding what to post next on twitter. So when your teacher drones on about how work experience increases your chances of getting a job by 68%, we all know the only thing you’re really focused on is catching the eye of the girl in row three.

Who wants to do work experience anyway, all you do is make tea, right?

Right. But secretly we all want to try it out because how are you supposed to choose what subjects to take when you don’t know what industry you want to go in to? Making tea or not though, there’s something about work experience – whether it’s a week or a day – that gives you a little bit of a confidence boost. The first day is always filled with nervous anticipation and unanswered questions like “What do I wear?!”, “It says I start at 9am, but what time should I get there?!”. It’s sorting out all of these little things and getting through that first day which is so important because the very meaning of a FIRST day is that you only have to do it once. Then the only way is up!

So you’re in, you want the experience. What next? 66% of companies say they look for work experience when hiring someone new. But only 30% actually offer it. So there’s never going to be enough to go around. Yet somehow, Hugo in 3B has managed to do two weeks at his mum’s advertising agency and a week shadowing his Dad’s friend at Facebook’s London HQ. There’s always one. So what about the rest of us?

Enter: The Lifeskills Pod. An innovative alternative to work experience that teaches you the real life skills you need to be successful in a 21st Century professional environment.

Chic, white and cuboid, the Pod takes you on the journey of your first day at a company. Right through from picking your outfit and deciding what time to arrive, through to the end of the day. After only 10 minutes, and four interactive questions, you leave the Pod with skills and the confidence to succeed in a professional environment.

Sitting comfortably in the big white chair, the HR leader of your new company stands in front of you, life-sized on a huge HD screen.

First off, you’re introduced to the different teams that you’ll be working with across the company: IT, Marketing, Finance & Sales, which teaches the importance of networking with others. Next, you’re set up with a computer and a company email, and tasked with communicating professionally with a customer. Resilience and problem solving are tested when you’re faced with an unhappy customer and you have to choose the right way to respond. Finally, the day is almost over, but your professionalism is determined by the way you choose to post about your experience on social media.

Networking, communication, problem solving and resilience are consistently named as the top four skills needed for work in the 21st Century. The Pod puts these to the test and builds on them like no other test we’ve seen outside of first hand work experience. You can’t learn these from a textbook. But you can learn them in a pod. At school. Even if you can’t get any work experience. And that’s pretty special.

- Photo credit: Mikael Buck/LifeSkills

Despite only being launched yesterday, at Lister Community School in Newham, the big white Pod already has swarms of students excited about getting their hands on a Lifeskills Certificate.

We went along for the launch and spoke to the lucky students who were the first to try out the new Pod.

- Photo credit: Mikael Buck/LifeSkills

“The Pod looks so cool, when I came into school this morning I wanted to try it out straight away. I liked that it involved how to use social media and email in a work environment because I’d never been taught that it’s important to think about what you say and how you portray yourself on the internet”
- Alex Jarrett, Year 11


“Going in to the Pod actually feels like going to work on your first day because it’s a new environment, you have to go in completely on your own, and you get to sit in a fancy swivel chair like you’re a CEO”
- Anisa Shahid, Year 10


“I’ve learnt a new word thanks to the Pod: ‘innovative’! It’s my new favourite word. The thing I like most about it though is that it teaches you things you would never be taught in a classroom, and it gives you feedback on what you did well and what you could improve on. I found that really helpful”
- Elijah Walker, Year 11


Plus, we heard from the Assistant Head teacher for the educator’s take on this as an innovative new solution to work experience.

“The kids absolutely love it. The Pod has created such a buzz being here so far, they all want to be involved and experience it which is great. It’s got kids in years 10 and 11 all talking about the skills they developed and got them thinking about alternatives to work experience which will help them get on track for the career they deserve. It’s even got kids as young as year 7 interested in it which is fantastic as it starts their inspiration early.

A week of work experience used to be compulsory for our year 10 students, but last year we made the decision to replace that week with workshops designed by ourselves and the Lifeskills team to build skills, and help them to write their first CV. It was seen as a risky decision and received some scepticism as we’re the first school in the area to try it, but overall, 99% of the kids said they felt both more confident in knowing what employers are looking for, and more confident that they have the skills needed to succeed. And that, to me, is a lot more useful than a student returning from a week at work to tell us that the skills they best developed was tea-making. We’re thrilled to be able to offer our kids this opportunity and with the support of Barclays Lifeskills, we will continue to do so.

So really, it goes to show that work experience isn’t always the most effective way of helping children get the skills they need to begin their working lives. We’re thrilled to be a part of the launch of the Lifeskills Pod -  as you can see. All the kids here love it not just because it’s new and exciting but because it’s got them thinking about skills they need and the skills they already have.”

- Mr Simon Beck, Assistant Head of Lister Community School, Newham

- Photo credit: Mikael Buck/LifeSkills

Finally, we chatted to the Head of Lifeskills, Kirstie Mackey (right), who told us about her ambitions for the project. Above, she tests out the POD with Lifeskills ambassador and Techmix cover star George the Poet.

“At Lifeskills, it’s our mission to help 1 million kids across the UK transition from education to industry as seamlessly as possible. Having the right skill set and the confidence in yourself are the main factors for success. Normally, these are gained through work experience, but unfortunately there is a huge deficit of it at the moment and young kids are struggling to secure any before they leave school. The skills you need to head into a professional environment now are vastly different to when I left school, with employers saying that they rank skills such as resilience, communication and networking at the top.

We have developed the Lifeskills Pod to reduce the number of kids leaving schools without experience, and to increase the next generation’s likelihood of succeeding in their first professional environment.

Our aim is for the pod to be accessible to everyone within our network of 70% of schools across the UK. Then the next step for us will be to develop the Pod to cover a wider range of 21st Century skills, and progress the format into the classroom directly via an online platform.

We are thrilled with the response from the kids here at Lister Community School, and we’re looking forward to touring the Pod with us around to the Digital Careers Shows across London for thousands more young people to experience.”

- Kirstie Mackey, Head of Lifeskills at Barclays


We at Techmix loved the Lifeskills Pod, as it does exactly what we aim to do: inspire, teach, and innovate. Plus, we tried it and we got a certificate! Just like Alex and Elijah below.

- Photo credit: Mikael Buck/LifeSkills

Want to give the pod a go? It will be travelling around the Digital Careers Show series in London. The next opportunity to try it will be at The Copper Box Arena, Olympic Park on 7th July.

Register for tickets here: Registration


Related Websites:

Barclays Lifeskills

Jobs in a lifetime, Linkedin Research

Digital Careers Roadshow