Mentoring as a tool for social mobility

 In Blog, Employment

In this article, Victoria, our Development and Communications Intern, who is on a month long placement at ELBA reflects on the importance of mentoring as tool for social mobility and the lessons learned through her own experiences.

The ‘Challenge the Impossible’ report published by the educational charity Teach First, released in 2017, contained some alarming statistics:

  1. In England young people from poorer families are less likely to do an apprenticeship.
  2. Graduates from economically disadvantaged families earn 10% less than their wealthier peers.
  3. If bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds had the same support to achieve as others, 4 in 10 would go to a top university – today, only 1 in 10 make it.

There are a variety of reasons that exist to explain the statistics above. In today’s working landscape it is increasingly competitive for young adults to secure jobs and insight opportunities especially those from poorer backgrounds. In light of this we must combat issues concerning the lack of social and cultural capital of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. We also need to continue to tackle the inequalities that arise regarding access to information on career prospects for disadvantaged young people compared to their more advantaged peers. Mentoring can be the perfect opportunity in helping to solve these issues.

Mentoring describes a mutually beneficial relationship between a mentor and a mentee. In this relationship a highly valuable knowledge exchange occurs between both parties to help guide the mentee in realising their potential, expanding their network and achieving their goals.

“Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor.

– Lailah Gifty Akita, founder of the Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation.

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

– Marian Wright Edelman, American children rights activist.

Since taking part in a corporate mentoring programme during my time at sixth form and through my experiences since then, I have found that these words could not be truer.

Mentorship can be such an invaluable experience and can bring many benefits to both the mentee and mentor. As a mentee I learnt three main things:

1) Not all careers require a university degree in the same sector. For instance, not all of those who work in finance have degrees in finance, accounting, business or economics. Irrespective of this they have relevant work experience and knowledge that helped to land them their role.

The mentor that I was allocated through the programme studied Politics at a Russell Group university but went on to pursue a career in commercial law. Hearing this for the first time left me surprised and confused but seeing this play out in the real world dispelled the myths that I previously had.

2) Building a network and making the most of opportunities that present themselves to me is very important as they will assist me in my lifelong personal development journey by gaining transferrable skills, experience and knowledge. My mentor helped me in applying to work experience opportunities by giving me an insight into what I can expect from job interviews, aptitude tests and assessment centres.

3) Lastly and most importantly, I learnt that I should always strive to reach my potential and exceed my expectations. Before meeting my mentor I did not have the confidence to apply to Russell Group universities as I thought that it would be too difficult for me to get offers from them. My mentor provided me with the push I needed to apply to top universities and I was so pleased to tell her that I received an offer from Cambridge University.

It has been great to see the life-changing work that ELBA does. For example, around 6000 local students have benefitted from ELBA’s Mentoring Works programme since it was established in 1996.

The Parity project, connecting young black men to careers in the City and Canary Wharf, is currently recruiting business volunteers to mentor candidates. Mentoring would involve meeting on a regular basis, over a period of 3 months. To express interest or request more information, please click here.

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