Charities like Future Frontiers have had to innovate rapidly to keep crucial services running.
Our innovation? Online mentoring for young people - delivered from employees' homes.
We're still providing important support to students, whilst helping employees stay connected to their community.
Alice Harding, Head of Programme Delivery at Future Frontiers, tells you everything you need to know about the online model.
At the start of March, we were taking 300 young people a week into businesses for face-to-face coaching sessions.
Within three weeks, all of this had to stop.
Yet in true Future Frontiers style, we refused to be defeated.
We knew that children from disadvantaged backgrounds would likely fall further behind their peers as a result of school closures. And we knew that access to an inspiring role model could make a big difference.
Determined that students would not miss out, we began the process of adapting our programme so it could be delivered from anywhere.
We're now proud to say that Future Frontiers has a brand new, online version of the coaching programme.
This programme is being piloted during May, with a roll out to 200 students planned for June.
Here's what you need to know:
The structure hasn't changed
We still work with businesses to recruit around 15 employee volunteers. Each volunteer receives training on how to be a great coach and a detailed handbook.
They are then matched to a young person and work with them across 4 x 90 minute coaching sessions.
The goals remain the same
The programme still aims to help young people in two main ways. It increases their engagement with school, and prepares them to enter higher education or work.
But there's a slight shift in focus
We've decided to offer our support to 16/17 year olds only - as this group are approaching important decisions next year.
More activities now focus on making university and/or apprenticeship choices. This means that students will be better prepared to make applications in the Autumn.
We're using the Bramble online tutoring platform
We looked into lots of options for virtual delivery. Bramble was the clear winner: it allows pupils and coaches to talk via video call in real-time, and to share an on-screen handbook.
Crucially, it's also records and transcribes all sessions, so we can check the interactions between coaches and young people.
You can learn more about Bramble here.
We've updated our safeguarding policy
All volunteers still undergo an enhanced DBS check and safeguarding training. However, we've implemented a number of additional measures to keep young people safe when meeting their coach online.
Schedules are no longer fixed
With the face-to-face model, dates and times for all 4 coaching sessions are fixed.
With both students and volunteers juggling working from home and other commitments, this was never going to translate well to an online model.
The online programme offers much greater flexibility: pupils and coaches agree their own session slots at mutually convenient times.
Students complete more independent research
The online sessions require students to do more preparation between sessions. For example, they complete a psychometric test before the first session, and complete a university research project.
This means more of the coaching sessions are spent delving into pupils' career and study motivations and evaluating their options.
You can now coach from anywhere!
Before Covid-19, participation was limited to those able to travel to offices in London, Bristol or Edinburgh. Now coaches can participate from their homes across the UK.
There's still lots of support!
Most volunteers have not worked with young people before, so we know it's vital to provide clear activities and be on-hand to support.
This hasn't changed with the online programme. All coaches attend a training webinar and receive walk-through videos for delivering each session.
Coaches and pupils still work through set activities laid out in the pupil handbook. And there's still always a Programme Manager on hand to support virtually during and between sessions.
If you're looking for a way for your business to support young people in their community in the coming months, get in touch with our team to find out more.