Being a business mentor is rewarding – and not just for the students. Here’s how your organisation can work with West of England Mentoring, and what everyone involved will get from it.
We believe the employability, skills and experiences of every kind of employee can be inspirational to school students. The challenges every adult has faced, the realities of work and the satisfaction of achievement are great examples for young people.
WEM’s mentoring model helps students in Years 8-10 (12 to 15 years old) benefit from your team’s insights. It’s based on a 6 session programme, delivered to a group of up to 20 students over about 12 weeks by a trained group of about 6 mentors from local businesses. The total time commitment is about 15-20 hours per mentor. We ask the company for a contribution per mentor to cover all the training, resources and support.
Organisations see the benefits of getting involved in their local community, both in terms of the perception of their social responsibility and in attracting new employees. It is a great way to be introduced to a school in your local area and work with them and to start to build a meaningful relationship.
Some businesses we work with go on to link with the student mentees by encouraging them to take part in the businesses work experience – this is a natural progression and can be more fruitful when the school and student are already known to the business.
Mentors often tell us that by engaging with a group of students they wouldn’t normally have a chance to meet, they can help challenge beliefs that some professions are exclusive and they actively encourage students from a range of backgrounds to think about pursuing different careers.
Businesses believe this is beneficial to their profession and has a positive impact and helps break down stereotypes.
It’s a great way for the business to maintain links to the local community, and evidence its commitment to increasing diversity in the workplace and encouraging social inclusion.” Business volunteer, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors
More directly, mentoring builds planning, presentation, influencing and communications skills directly applicable to the workplace and creates bonds between teams of mentor volunteers. A mentoring champion told us: “We see it as a way for our people to develop personally and professionally, doing something good for the next generation but also being better at their own thing as a result. And they really love doing it!”
We know it makes a difference and encourage all students and mentors to provide feedback for our evaluation – which we share with the business and the school.
Our mentors come from all different backgrounds and have had different routes into the workplace. This means that mentors can share their stories and give examples of how they got into their chosen career. This is beneficial for the students and empowering for the mentors: it helps share messages that there is no one fixed route into the work place but many pathways – some of which are explored over the six sessions.
We know from the feedback that we get from mentors that it can and does improve their skills and contributes to their personal development.
It can be really rewarding to see student mentees develop over the six sessions.
A business mentor told us:
I enjoy the headspace it gives me to step away from my normal work and get talking to these guys. They’re young but surprisingly well-informed and we have great conversations. Some kids start out really quiet and it’s rewarding to see them coming forward and making themselves heard. We take turns running the sessions and there’s a bit of healthy competition over who can come up with the best ways to introduce a topic, keep the pace up, and make sure everyone can join in.”
We make it as easy as possible to take part in group mentoring. WEM provides training and resources for mentors. At the same time we encourage mentors to tailor programmes to their own sectors, interests and personalities.
Sessions are delivered in school and in the workplace, with teacher supervision and WEM will introduce and support this partnership providing background information to the school and ensuring that all mentors feel confident when they are delivering their sessions.