Mentoring Works, ELBA, Linklaters and Clapton Girls’ Academy

Written by Siân Lewis, Programme Manager, Mentoring Works, ELBA

2021 marks twenty years of Linklaters’ partnership with ELBA’s Mentoring Works programme and we are delighted to have worked together to celebrate this milestone with a short film that captures the testimonies and reflections of so many who have worked on, or with, the programme over the years. Mentors and mentees past and present, along with programme, company and school staff have all helped to tell the story of mentoring; the experience, power and impact that it has on both the individual and the wider community.

Do take the time to watch the film and share in our celebration of mentoring and the value of long term partnerships.

20 Years of ELBA's Mentoring Works programme with Linklaters

For me personally, having been part of the Mentoring Works team for 12 years, joining first as Coordinator, then Project Manager and now heading up the programme, I have had the pleasure of being an integral part of this relationship for many years. I have witnessed all of the second part of this milestone, which is the ten years that Linklaters have partnered with Hackney secondary school Clapton Girls’ Academy. In their time, Linklaters have provided 600 mentors to support 1000 students.

Linklaters offer a series of opportunities of support to students throughout the year groups at Clapton Girls’ Academy and Mentoring Works is a key programme on offer in both Year 10 and Sixth Form. Mentors and mentees are matched together on a nine month programme that guides young people in making their own discoveries and decisions and supports them to develop the skills competencies and knowledge they will need for future life and the world of work.

As a team, we at Mentoring Works talk about mentoring all of the time; it’s what we do day in and day out and there is no question that we always carry with us that certainty in the value of mentoring and just how much it can touch and change lives. But milestones like this are so important. Not only because the level of commitment between Linklaters and their community partners is so heart-warming and impressive but by taking the time to reflect, by taking stock and reminding ourselves why we do what we do, we truly understand what the time, energy and effort of mentoring has amounted to.

In the process of speaking to people about their involvement in this film and listening to their recorded thoughts, it has consolidated, for me, three truths about mentoring:

1. Mentoring benefits everyone
Time and again mentoring proves to us that it is not a one-way street. Although mentees stand to gain a lot from the guidance of a mentor, mentoring develops mentors too. Mentors have told us how mentoring has developed their confidence, communication, leadership and management skills, as well as growing their knowledge of their communities and young people. And mentoring has impact beyond the immediate relationship, as the Linklaters partnership exemplifies. Great partnerships will benefit employees, businesses, students and schools in a myriad of ways and over a number of years.

2. Mentoring breaks down barriers and connects communities
Early on, when I first joined Mentoring Works, I met up with a young woman who had been on the programme many years before and who, with her mentor’s support and her growing self-belief, had altered her outlook and carved out a great future for herself. Something she said has always stuck with me “Living in London, people are quite separate. Mentoring is about getting to know your neighbours – if you only ever know people just like you, then you don’t really know people, you’re just staying in your comfort zone.” Mentoring has that ability to connect you with people you may not otherwise meet. In a “mutual exchange”, as one mentor recently termed it, you can connect and benefit from one another’s insights and experiences. Mentoring isn’t simply just a good thing to do, it joins us up across communities and develops our understanding of each other and the world around us.

3. Mentoring transforms lives
Young people draw such inspiration from having tailored and personalised guidance from a neutral professional mentor. Having a mentor who invests their time, energy and attention towards you, grows a mentee’s confidence, gratitude and aspiration. Having an insight into working places and spaces translates into young people growing their own ambitions, focusing in on self-development and aiming higher. Mentoring opens a young person’s eyes to all the possibilities and pathways and gives them the space to reflect on their own strengths and personal passions. There is so much potential in the experience of mentoring, you get out what you put in and it has the capacity to deliver real impact for all involved.  As the alumni featured in our celebration film testify to, mentoring has created lightbulb moments and illuminated pathways, with one past Clapton Girls’ mentee describing those early opportunities, like mentoring and work experience at Linklaters, as stepping stones to where she is now; a campaigner, award winner and Co-CEO of a charity.

Reflecting back on these many years of mentoring, there is still a clear need to support and guide young people in the communities we serve. Mentoring has huge value and continues to open doors and shape lives for the better. Here’s to the next 20 years.

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