Student resilience in the face of uncertainty

Written by Rosa High, Project Manager, Education Works, ELBA

As we move in 2022, we are all faced with another year of uncertainty. This month we are taking time to reflect on the resilience of students during this stressful time and focus on the resilience we have seen throughout the work of the Education team, from both the students and volunteers we work with.

Each year, our Mentoring Works team launch their Mentoring scheme, which matches Year 10 and sixth-form students with mentors across companies in the City and Canary Wharf. The mentors and students engage with weekly or bi-weekly phone calls building a supportive and nurturing relationship. The aim of the scheme is to guide students to explore options and develop the skills, competencies and knowledge they will need for future education, training and employment. The programme is underpinned by 4 key focus areas: to introduce students to the world of work, raise aspirations, help students to identify their career goals and increase employability through developing skills. However, alongside exploring individual career goals and improving their personal skillset, the mentor/mentee relationship allows students the flexibility to ask questions and talk specifically about anything in particular they wish to discuss. Within the mentoring sessions, mentors and mentees are encouraged to talk about how they best cope with stress and in this current climate and focus has been placed on taking time to talk about general mental health and wellbeing. We know that the mental wellbeing of students at the moment is in real need of support during such an unsettling and unstable time. Clearly, our mentors have been doing a fantastic job of providing such support judging by the influx of positive feedback we have received from students:

“My mentor really taught me how to just take a deep breath and realise that life is so much more than that. Because of her, every time I’m in a stressful situation, I take a breath and realise that it is not a big deal. I calm down. I would definitely say that throughout this whole programme I have been less hard on myself, I’ve stopped pushing myself to the point where I go overboard. My mentor’s really helped me deal with the stress of exams and it’s all down to her.”

“The highlights of our time together was focusing on my mental health and ways I can work around stress during exam periods and making choices – I am really grateful for that.”

“I think the best part has been connecting and relating with my mentor. She’s given me so much great advice. Also being able to get things off my chest and learning more about myself.”

100% of students said that the mentoring programme helped them to get back on track with their motivation and learning after the disruption of Covid-19 – a phenomenal achievement which showcases how valuable mentoring and mentors are.

Within Education Works, a similar programme runs between Higher Education students and employees from across the broad range of ELBA’s alliance. The relationships formed are very similar with hourly meetings every fortnight with mentors from a range of industries and roles, who can share their experiences and guide higher education students into employment. Much like the Mentoring works scheme, the mentoring relationships here also go above and beyond, with mentors taking time to encourage and support students.

“My mentoring experience was really educational and fun. For example, I learnt how to believe in myself and learnt how to communicate effectively by asking questions if I do not understand. These Mentoring sessions improved my confidence and boosted up my self esteem.”

The conversations between students and mentors have clearly had a profound and positive impact on students, way beyond their employability skills, but in realising their resilience and how they can channel this during such a stressful period. It is great to see just how influential and effective these mentoring relationships can be and we are already looking forward to launching the programmes again this year!

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