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Inspiring students in lockdown – supporting young people virtually

21 July 2020
Since March, more than 4,000 students across the country have taken part in a virtual volunteering programme developed and delivered by the bp UK community affairs team
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When it became clear that plans for face-to-face work experience, mentoring and ‎careers volunteering in schools could not take place because of COVID-19, bp quickly ‎explored how to support young people remotely. 

By partnering with charities including Career Ready, Speakers for Schools (SfS) and ‎the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF), the team was able to reach more young people ‎than ever before. Charities such as SfS and SMF aim to end educational inequality ‎and level the playing field for young people of all backgrounds, which aligns with bp’s ‎commitment to improving social mobility. ‎

Virtual work experience

Students who had successfully applied for summer work experience and were ‎expecting to be placed in bp offices have instead taken part in four-day virtual insight ‎placements. ‎

Around 100 young people have participated so far, including SMF and SfS students, ‎with a further 200 expected in July and August. ‎

Through live, interactive sessions on Google Classroom in collaboration with SfS, ‎volunteers from across bp shared their knowledge of geoscience, engineering, low ‎carbon, agility, ethics and compliance, digital careers, communication, the circular ‎economy and procurement. The 15- to 18-year-olds also took part in speed ‎‎networking with bp graduate employees – known as Challengers; attended sessions ‎on interview and CV skills; and joined team-working ‎exercises and quizzes.‎


The bp virtual insight week was great – I really enjoyed it and it felt like being in the ‎office albeit virtually! I enjoyed the interaction with the volunteers and it gave me an ‎insight into careers in the energy industry which I will explore further.‎Gaia,bp virtual insight student

Virtual talks

Around 4,000 students joined virtual talks from bp speakers. This innovative SfS ‎series saw top professionals from bp and other organizations sharing career stories ‎via Teams Live. Senior leaders from bp participated, including Fuzzy Bitar, Aleida ‎Rios, Peter Mather, Kathrina Mannion, Charlotte Stacey, Tamara Holmgren, Simon ‎Hodgkinson and Alejandra Castaño, as well as Lightsource bp CEO Nick Boyle.‎


I learnt a lot more about the skills needed as an engineer: innovation, ‎communication, teamwork and attention to detail, which were discussed in the talk. ‎For example, communication is key, because when solving a challenge, you need to ‎think about making decisions with each other and negotiating to identify the best and ‎most efficient way to solve a challenge.Student attendee,virtual talk


Skills and mentoring

  • 60 students joined sessions from bp volunteers during Career Ready‘s virtual ‎skills festival. ‎
  • ‎11 SMF students have started their virtual mentoring journey with bp ‎volunteers from engineering and business roles to gain an increased ‎understanding of their desired ‎career and professional life, support with ‎university applications and skills ‎development.‎
  • Around 40 bp colleagues volunteered to answer students’ questions about ‎coding, science and engineering careers in live, focused online chats. Students ‎voted Meera Sewraz and Andy L Smith from bp’s IT&S architecture team their ‎favourite professionals in the I’m a Scientist initiative.‎

Support with home learning

In addition to virtual offers, the bp community affairs team created new home-learning ‎materials to support students, teachers and parents through these unprecedented ‎times. This year, they have downloaded a record 85,000 resources – triple the figure ‎for the same period last year – and given very positive feedback. ‎

Almost 3,000 parents have registered on the bp educational service site since March. The usual average is 60 per month. ‎

Expanding our virtual programme: new ‘bp inspire me’ series ‎

bp continues to work with SfS by launching a series of talks to inspire young people ‎and help them develop essential employability skills. A range of bp employees will ‎bring to life how they overcame challenges and used or developed a skill through ‎professional or personal experience.‎

How the programme will work


  • Talks at 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 August‎
  • Focus on eight essential skills (listening, speaking, problem solving, creativity, ‎staying positive, aiming high, leadership, teamwork)‎
  • On Teams Live, with links to talks on the SfS site. ‎


Using bp partner Skills Builder’s universal framework, which shows how to build ‎essential skills at every stage of life, the ‘bp inspire me’ talks aim to help students ‎understand the importance of these skills – which are now more important than ever – ‎and relate key skills to inspirational role models.‎


While COVID-19 has brought challenges in the way we run our programmes, ‎pivoting swiftly to a virtual offer has enabled us to reach more students and work with ‎impactful organizations aligned to our aim of supporting students from less privileged ‎backgrounds and tackling social mobility.Mas Rahman,community affairs manager, bp


This work makes a real difference. Research from the Education and Employers ‎Taskforce shows that a young person who has four or more meaningful encounters ‎with an employer is 25% less likely to be unemployed or not in education or training ‎and can earn more during their career. The ongoing Aspires research ‎project found that students with low social capital stand to benefit most from ‎improved careers education and links between education and employers.‎


Upcoming talks

Tuesday 4 August: Joshua Wakefield on aiming high

20-year-old Josh, from Bexley, South London originally started at bp on a 6 week summer internship with Career Ready, and now works at bp as a trading operator in sustainability. Joshua is extremely determined and will demonstrate how aiming high has got him to where he is today at bp. 


Thursday 6 August: Kav Bhamra on listening

Kavaljeet Singh Bhamra has been working at bp for the past 23 years. As well as his day job as a service continuity lead he is also co-chair to bp’s Positively Ethnic Network (PEN), a business resource group whose goal is to help bp become the number one employer in the UK for race and equality. In addition to talking about his career, Kav will illustrate the importance of listening to a broad range of views on diversity, to help bp achieve its aims.


Visit the Speakers for schools website for more information.