Mentoring is a powerful way to nurture and develop talent in the workplace. It enriches the lives of those involved, and provides mentees with the self-confidence and guidance they need to make the best of their careers. But what about those formative years before work, when the habits and attitudes we learn can shape the people we become?
To celebrate National Mentoring Day, People First spoke with Lauren Donaldson, Project Leader at ReachOut, the UK’s largest mentoring charity, to find out how their mentoring programmes are making a real difference to young people’s lives.
What is ReachOut UK?
ReachOut is a mentoring charity working with young people aged nine to sixteen in disadvantaged communities. Our work aims to raise aspirations and help them grow in character and attainment, helping them to be the best they can be.
Tell us a bit more about your work…
The young people we work with come from disadvantaged areas. Through no fault of their own, many will fall into the ‘NEET’ category (not in education, employment or training) and will struggle to find and hold down good jobs after leaving school. Outside of the classroom, many young people from disadvantaged areas face challenges acquiring the skills and experience to help them achieve their goals and go on to live good, happy and successful lives.
At ReachOut, we concentrate on character education, because it has been proven to develop strengths that can be useful in every aspect of life. Young people from low socio-economic backgrounds may miss out on vital opportunities to develop the character strengths needed both in and out of the working world, such as self-control, fairness, good judgement and staying power.
Young people are referred to ReachOut for a variety of different reasons: low academic attainment, low confidence or behavioural issues, or because their teachers believe they would benefit from the support of a role model.
By attending weekly sessions and working closely with the same mentor throughout the year, students build their sense of self-worth and confidence. They are exposed to career opportunities and given career advice. Through focused one-to-one support, they are able to concentrate on academic work and build their confidence, ready to demonstrate their willingness to learn when back in the classroom.
Each week, mentors and mentees work on activities dedicated to building the students’ Staying Power, Fairness, Good Judgement and Self-Control, building character strengths that enable them to overcome the challenges they may face in the future.
Has the mentoring programme been a success?
Absolutely. In the 2016/17 school year, 348 young people attended 10 or more mentoring sessions and received 5750 hours of mentoring. Of these:
- 76% believed their school work had improved
- 80% thought their confidence had improved
- 64% believed their behaviour had improved
And mentoring doesn’t just benefit the mentees. Out of the participating mentors:
- 65% improved their skills to motivate others
- 70% improved their communication skills
- 57% improved their listening skills
Do you think mentoring is something that would benefit these children in adulthood as well?
Learning doesn’t stop once you leave school or university, and many barriers continue to exist for individuals in working life. Mentoring definitely shouldn’t stop once we leave school. We aspire to progress in our place or area of work, and continue to need that role model; mentoring offers advice and insights into what we can do to make that next step.
In a society where there are barriers holding certain groups back, and with a lack of diversity on many boards or senior management teams, mentoring offers a positive opportunity for those who have broken that glass ceiling to guide others to do the same. Mentoring alone won’t change things overnight, but it is one form of positive action that can be taken towards creating more equal and successful workplaces.
How can people get involved with ReachOut?
Sign up and volunteer to mentor! It really is enjoyable and rewarding – not just in each individual session, but especially over an extended period.
- Sign up to mentor: https://www.reachoutuk.org/sign-up-to-mentor
- Donate to help provide one-to-one mentoring: https://www.reachoutuk.org/Appeal/donate