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A business mentor working in school

West of England Mentoring

This project is getting underway during 2017 and we’re already talking to secondary schools and businesses in the West of England region: Bristol, North Somerset, South Glos and Bath & NE Somerset. Business mentoring projects will kick off in earnest in September 2017.

What is it?
West of England Mentoring (WEM) is a partnership of mentoring organisations set up to deliver business mentoring in schools across the West of England (Bristol, B&NES, South Glos and N Somerset).

Who are the partners?
They are Mentoring Plus (lead partner), Ablaze (delivery partner), Babbasa (support partner) and business network Bath Bridge (support partner).

What does the project cover?
Recruiting, training and supporting groups of business mentors (usually about 6) who are partnered with schools to complete 6 group mentoring sessions over about 12 weeks. Schools select groups of students (usually about 20) to benefit from mentoring. The project encourages young people to think about dreams and goals, barriers and pathways, employability skills and action plans.

Which students are mentored?
This project focuses on ‘missed middle’ students – not the most high-performing, nor those already receiving additional education support. Working with years 8, 9 and 10, the project aims to inspire students at risk of disengaging or those needing extra inspiration to make career choices and see the relevance of their studies before GCSE. Ideally at least some mentoring sessions take place in the workplace.

Who is paying for it?
Initially this is benefiting from funding from the Careers and Enterprise Company, part of the Dept for Education. Schools also contribute a fee per student, and participating companies help support the project with a contribution to the cost of mentor training.

What do schools need to do to participate?
Schools are asked to nominate an internal co-ordinator to manage the referral of students, project participation, timetabling and travel, and to support impact reporting on each student. In subsequent years, previous mentees can also be trained by WEM to provide peer mentoring alongside business mentors. Schools are supported by the WEM Project Manager and build a relationship with their partner organisation’s mentoring champion.

What do businesses need to do to participate?
Businesses are asked to nominate one or more mentoring champions to co-ordinate their involvement, bringing together a group of about 6 colleagues to mentor together. The WEM Project Manager schedules and delivers training, co-ordinates 6 mentoring sessions over 12 weeks with the partner school, and supports reporting and celebrating successes. The total time commitment is about 15-20 hours per mentor, depending on location.

Will the project continue in subsequent years?
Yes. Ideally schools form relationships with individual businesses and mentors will go on to support another group. New mentors can join their company’s group as well. This allows students who have completed mentoring to be trained to peer mentor younger students too.

Do mentors have to make up all the content themselves?
Training covers a six-session structure for business mentoring, providing themes and example exercises. Following these core elements, mentors can decide how to deliver each session and get students involved, building on their own experiences, skills and the nature of their organisation.

What are the benefits for students?
A teacher from a school in Bristol receiving business mentoring from a law firm told us: “We see a clear difference in students’ effort and attainment from participating. It’s also interesting that our recent head boys and girls and other students who have stepped forward to run things were also those who had taken part. This year, 60 students heard a presentation by the previous year’s mentees and mentors, and 55 applied to join the programme.”

What are the benefits for mentors?
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.”

What are the benefits for organisations?
Businesses 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. More directly, mentoring builds communications skills directly applicable to the workplace and creates bonds between teams of 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’ve got more volunteers than we can include at the moment.”

Where can I find out more?
Please contact us to discuss your school or organisation getting involved, or if you can support business mentoring in other ways.