James Ashall, CEO Movement to Work, shares how mentoring is critical to young people’s life chances.

We’ve all been given an opportunity by someone at some time.  If you reflect back and think about it I’m sure you can all remember when you got that first bit of work experience, when someone took a chance on you for a job.  For many of the young people we aim to support through Movement to Work that person to take a chance on them and support them is missing, or they don’t have the knowledge or access to support themselves to fulfil their ambitions or even realise their ambitions.

Being given that chance is a small but important facet of mentoring, that point where trust is built and a young person can see that someone believes in them and is willing to take a risk to support them with their development. I’ve been fortunate to have many people I can call mentors through my life and from each of these relationships I’ve learnt something different. Be they formal in-work mentors, family mentors or professional coaches.  I’ve also had the privilege of mentoring some inspirational people and it truly is a two-way street; the reward and learning from being a mentor is so powerful and something that I believe has really supported my life development.

Movement to Work is so focussed on mentorship because we know the difference it makes to the young people we are supporting.  Having a person who believes in them, will support them through good and bad, will listen and provide an honest insight is invaluable and this is born out statistically in our data.  Those employers, training providers and charity partners who invest the most in mentoring, in many different ways, deliver better positive outcomes for the young people they support; more get into jobs or education (upwards of 70% vs our average of 56%).

The reason for this is two-fold.  Firstly it boosts their confidence: someone is investing in their development, listening to them as an individual, answering the questions they may have, removing uncertainty and making them feel part of a family in the work place.  Secondly, there is a relationship that can transcend an employability programme, if they are not successful first time that mentor knows them and can help them with what’s next. This ongoing relationship means they are more likely to find the job they are looking for, and when they do are likely to announce joyfully to their mentor that they have secured it, closing the feedback loop.

The employers and partners across our programmes deliver mentorship in many different ways but the two real types we see are the ‘work mentor’ and the ‘life mentor’.  The former is often a ‘buddy’ from within and employer who spends time with a candidate before the programme, and support them through their work. They can answer all of those questions that have obvious answers to us having been in the workplace for years. The latter is usually a professional working in youth training or youth charity work, their relationships with a young person usually starts long before a work placement and, where the right funding is in place, they continue to support them through that placement.  That pastoral support can make the difference between someone completing the programme and getting a job with prospects or dropping out part of the way through.  One of the key elements in structuring and funding employability programmes is to ensure that there is enough provision for that ongoing mentoring support.

All of the above said, the benefit to the mentor must not be overlooked.  As well the rich experience of being a mentor data from both M&S and Diageo shows that those who become mentors or buddies through their employability programmes have higher engagement with their employers, and we know employee engagement correlates with customer satisfaction and Earnings per Share.

We’ve spent much time over the last few months talking to our Steering Group members and senior business leaders, mentors and mentees about the benefits of employability programmes and specifically mentoring to them and their businesses. Below you can see four brilliant case studies where programme graduates from M&S, Marriot, BT and Accenture have interviewed their mentors.  One thing that didn’t come through in the videos was a message we heard loud and clear from the young people we support.  If you’re going to agree to mentor make sure you are in for the duration and that everyone has the same expectations.  If you get that right it can be the most rewarding part of any job.

We know that if more organisations get this right, the success rate across Movement to Work will increase further, there will be many more engage employees and critically we will be able to many more young people into employment.

And one final thought from me, if you are looking for a mentor, find that person who you admire who you think could be great and ask them for some time to chat, they’re more than likely to say yes. People love to help.