As is the case for educational institutions across the globe, COVID-19 has required The British School of Brussels (BSB) to fully reimagine its learning environment and those vital rhythms upon which it traditionally relies. As Belgium entered lockdown, BSB students, teachers, staff and parents grew quickly familiar with our ‘new normal’ as we explored virtual learning via Microsoft Teams, aiming to ensure academic continuity and community connectivity. Our Admissions Office continued to accept applications and conduct online interviews, creating a virtual tour resource geared toward prospective families; new students who did join us during lockdown received a warm welcome from their teachers and classmates via group video chat. Once schools were allowed to reopen, we were elated to gradually welcome students back in person on a staggered, part-time basis, prioritizing their physical as well as social and emotional health as they returned to a campus transformed by strict one-way walking systems, sanitizing stations and classroom bubbles. Today, as we anticipate the start of a new school term in just a few short weeks, adaptability remains key; multiple action plans are at the ready, enabling us to remain flexible as government regulations inevitably change.
It is our charge to ensure that students are prepared to return to BSB, and vice-versa, while COVID-19 remains a risk. As a school that is deeply committed to Employer Engagement programming which encourages students to think critically about their future careers, we must additionally consider how we can best prepare students to leave BSB as they face the new challenges of a post-COVID-19 working world. Logistically speaking, it is unlikely that we can move forward with events such as our Expert Panel, Career Roundtable talks, in-class presentations and company site visits in their traditional formats. Rather than approaching virtual options as temporary band-aid solutions, perhaps this is the moment to permanently integrate technology into our careers programming, embracing its expansive potential to eliminate borders. Video-based speaker series, virtual skill-building workshops, online projects with corporate partners and/or more personalized mentorship experiences with local and international collaborators, may all be feasible and more easily incorporated into the students’ and professionals’ packed schedules.
Virtual or not, in order to develop immersive, meaningful content that is relevant to the students’ ‘new normal’, we must consider the challenges faced by both sides of the hiring process. What skill sets are most sought after by employers, and how might these have shifted in light of the crisis? Which industries have been most affected by COVID-19? Does this affect students’ impressions of their chosen field or ‘dream job’, and what might help to clarify any uncertainties? More practically, how can students apply for, land and begin their first job while many businesses still operate remotely?
As we plan for the Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021 school terms, BSB invites individual and corporate volunteers to collaborate with us, tackling these questions and more through innovative programming for students of all ages. You can see below all of the way in which you and your company can engage!
About the author
Amanda joined The British School of Brussels in June 2019. Before moving to Belgium, she worked as an academic administrator and Art Center Director at Queens College, City University of New York.