When Distance Creates Connections and Unexpected Opportunities
This year, our partner Alliance pour l’Éducation – United Way aims to support 10,500 French high school students from priority neighborhoods and rural areas in their schooling. Last March, due to the public health crisis, these students were unable to go on their work experience placement. They were, however, offered an alternative: meet virtually with Total employees in Tunisia, Congo, Morocco, Switzerland and Belgium. This gave them the opportunity to discover jobs and interact with workers from around the world, all from their own homes.
At 15, it can be hard to imagine what jobs in communications, marketing, procurement, trading and human resources really involve. The purpose of these work experience placements is to offer students a glimpse of the daily activities of a given job and of the working world more generally. For a high school student, doing work experience abroad is a difficult feat. And yet...
Thanks to a remote arrangement set up by Alliance pour l’Éducation – United Way, 30 career forums were held online, involving 130 employees from 23 companies.
Students from Les Pyramides High School in Évry-Courcouronnes (greater Paris) and Romé High School in l’Isle à Gray (eastern France) met 13 Total employees based in Tunisia, Congo, Morocco, Switzerland and Belgium. As part of the Action! program, these employees had all volunteered to talk about what their jobs and daily activities consist of and how they find meaning in their work. “We were delighted to share our career paths and experiences with the students and answer all their questions candidly,” says Rania Ahmed, Digital Marketing Manager in Tunisia.
Paradoxically, the remote arrangement brought participants closer together and enabled the students to create a connection with professionals they would have never had the opportunity to meet if they had completed their placement on-site. They showed genuine interest and curiosity. “The remote set-up wasn’t an obstacle, and that’s great because I think it opens up all sorts of possibilities. We shouldn’t rule it out in the future,” says Stéphanie Henry, Principal of Les Pyramides High School.
Given how challenging the year has been for young people, these friendly and open exchanges were much appreciated. The initiative will be carried out again next year and give rise to new Action! volunteering opportunities.