News article

How we’re helping prospective university students learn the ways of working in tech

To help students whose A-Levels were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, we recently invited prospective university students to participate in a free 12-week, business-focused educational programme entitled RVUni.

It was created in response to the complications COVID-19 caused with last summer’s A-Level grades, where many students’ university applications had to be deferred until 2021. The programme aims to give students from low socio-economic backgrounds the opportunity to learn about various professional roles within a tech company.

All lessons have been led by RVU colleagues who have volunteered their time to teach a topic related to their role in Marketing or Analytics they are experts in.

The company’s community impact team, RVU Pay It Forward, is organising the programme with the help of Southwark-based young persons charity, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London.

Why was the programme set up?

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of A-Level and GCSE exams, leading to much confusion over how to grade students who were set to progress into university or Sixth Form the next year.

This led to many pupils being deferred by their chosen universities because although their predicted grades qualified, the university had oversubscribed on their acceptance offers and reached their admissions capacity for the year.

In addition, studies have shown that students from disadvantaged backgrounds were far more likely to fall behind during school closures over the last year, given the lack of access they had to online learning resources.

So to help plug the education gap for students with low social mobility who are looking to go to university this year, RVU Pay It Forward set out to run a crash course on the many avenues young professionals could take in a digital and technology business like RVU.

How was the programme run?

The RVUni programme consisted of 12 virtual lessons via video call (one conducted every week), as well as extensive online courses, applied homework and weekly Q&As on each subject with RVU colleagues.

Each week, one or two volunteers from RVU would lead a topic on the basics of their role, equipped with a slide show and aided by a volunteer assistant. The topics spanned multiple areas of Marketing and Analytics, including Search Engine Optimisation, Microsoft Excel, SQL programming, data visualisation with Tableau, Paid Search and Email Marketing.

Outside of the lessons, the students had access to a Slack workspace where they could ask RVU volunteers questions about their assigned homework or get more information from course leaders on the week’s topic.

Who was involved?

The programme was organised by RVU Pay It Forward in partnership with SEO London. This is the second major project embarked on by Pay It Forward and SEO London, after they collaborated last year on CodeF, a week-long coding course for university students who identify as female.

However, both projects would have been impossible without the selfless and dedicated work of many RVU colleagues who volunteered to share knowledge on their expert subject with equally enthusiastic students.

SEO London put us in touch with eight students from its network, all based in London, who plan on taking a variety of university degrees from Marketing to Computer Science. Those students are the first of hopefully many to enroll with RVUni.

RVU Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward is RVU’s community impact team. It is a team of colleagues, all with their own full-time roles within the business, who want to ensure the business gives back to its local community in Southwark and fosters a new generation of diverse talent in tech.

Through its different pillars, it runs a range of activities from grassroots initiatives to learning & professional development programmes to fundraisers. It’s also developing a new Sustainability arm to make sure RVU is doing all it can to limit its impact on the environment.

RVUni is part of Pay It Forward’s mission to give wings to the unwinged, which is to provide opportunities to those less likely to be afforded the opportunity to grow their skills and help them achieve success.

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London

SEO London is a Southwark-based educational charity that focuses on giving students from ethnic minority or low social mobility backgrounds a fair, equal opportunity to excel in their education and future career.

It gives support to a diverse network of talented young people and puts them in touch with educational programmes, like RVUni, to help them earn a skillset that’s fit for an industry they’re passionate about.

Case studies from RVUni

While the programme is still ongoing, it’s clear that RVUni students have responded very well to the course as it comes to a close.

One response from student Hana said:

“I’ve really enjoyed taking part in this course as I have had the opportunity to learn so many new things that I otherwise might not have had the chance to.

“For example during email week, I learnt about all the different types of emails such as email broadcasts and autoresponder emails. I learnt about the different components within an email and how to compose an exceptional one!

“During the two Google Analytics weeks I learned how to interpret and understand data about campaigns as well as creating my own custom report.”

Mansi, another RVU student, said:

“For the first two weeks of the course we learned about Paid Search, and during this I really enjoyed using Google Keyword Planner. I was able to test out different keywords, which I thought was quite helpful in answering the homework questions we were given at the end of each session.

“One thing I didn’t know before that really surprised me is that a higher CPC bid doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d get the top ranking for the results page. So it was quite interesting to learn about other aspects like landing page experience.”

RVUni student Tesho also had this to say about Microsoft Excel lessons:

”After spending two weeks learning about Excel, we learned about how to write formulas and create visualisations, such as creating charts and graphs, and also how to use these to then make patterns and find insights within the data.

RVU Pay It Forward team leader, Piero Bassu, said:

“At RVU, we are passionate about mentoring, inspiring and providing a path for young people from underprivileged backgrounds to grow.

“RVUni supports these students at a critical moment in their life, just before starting university education, and helps to open up futures, skillsets and possibilities that might have not been visible or available to them beforehand'.