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Become a mentor for youth in your area

Maddie Brindley-Slater
24 April 2024
Pathfinder Programme

Through our experience running mentoring and work experience programmes for young people, we’ve witnessed a tide of change sweeping over young people’s perceptions of their futures in the UK. Whether it be the cost of living, increased education cuts or the soaring costs of university, many young people are feeling increasingly shut out from the world of work and higher education.

What many of these young people feel is missing from their lives is expertise and a direct line of contact with someone in their chosen field. This crucial missing link can be what ultimately allows them to find their feet in a career that inspires them.

For many young people, however, the link to businesses is missing, often due to a lack of connections. Whilst some young people are able to utilise family networks to gain insight and advice on their careers, there is a large proportion of 16-18 year olds who feel they lack this link. This is exactly where mentoring for youth comes into play.

Youth mentors have never been more needed. Acting as the missing link between workplace and student, mentoring is an essential asset to the education and enterprise spheres that Wiseup is pleased to be championing.

If you’re a member of a business looking to give back and make a tangible impact on students in your area, our mentoring programmes are for you. Read on to discover exactly what this entails, and how becoming a mentor for youth in your community is a powerful opportunity to give back.

Why is youth mentoring so important?

Between the ages of 16-18, gaining a realistic taste of work is crucial. Yet, for many young people, these experiences remain out of reach due to limited networks. Unfortunately, the old phrase ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is a core barrier in place for many young people.

Mentoring, ahead of work experience, allows young people to nurture their potential in a way that’s tailored to them. It’s also a two-way relationship that benefits both mentor and mentee, shaping the student’s academic success and championing personal growth and professional development in the mentor.

You can make your mark in the world through the Pathfinder Programme.

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What is the Pathfinder Programme?

An innovative initiative that combines mentoring and work experience opportunities, the Pathfinder Programme is a unique scheme that seeks to dismantle social barriers for young people. Including 4-5 mentoring sessions as a ‘wrapper’ around work experience; it provides a safe space for students in preparation for making the most of this life changing opportunity.

Our mentoring programmes combine real world experiences in the workplace with direct support from mentors on a 1-2-1 basis. This gives young people a platform to see firsthand what a career could look like in their chosen field, with plenty of opportunities to learn, ask questions and grow as the programme progresses.

Importantly, this mentor programme gives students the skills and confidence needed to kickstart their careers. The mentoring acts as a buffer, preparing the young people to enter the office with confidence. Whereas normal work placement schemes feature no preparation for the workplace itself, the Pathfinder Programme gives them the perfect opportunity to ask any questions in advance. We’ve seen first-hand the difference this can make to a young person’s attitude and confidence. Instead of taking wary steps and perhaps not getting the most out of the experience, more often than not, the participants in our programmes begin their placements with an unmissable sense of ease.

Leaving the work placement week, we’ve witnessed yet another step up the confidence ladder, as students finish their placement with fresh new CVs, LinkedIn profiles, and improved skillsets. They also leave the work placement with their first ever networks.

Many student alumni have been put in contact with various departments to learn as much as possible about the plethora of job opportunities that lie ahead of them. From commercial law departments to HR, we’ve witnessed firsthand how a student’s eyes can truly be opened from just a few short conversations with individuals in the right business areas. Again, this can be the difference between following a typical career path that’s uninspiring to them, and taking a brand new career path (in a department that was previously unknown) that truly fills them with passion and excitement.

Finally, the last few mentoring sessions take place in the wake of the work experience programme, preparing the students to take away as many positive aspects from the programme as possible as they begin to look forward towards the next stages of their lives. This will undoubtedly involve a summer of taking in all that has been learnt, ready to supercharge their last year of college/sixth form ahead of their exciting careers.

Now that we can see the importance of such programmes, let’s take a deeper look at the benefits in more detail.

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5 benefits of work experience and mentoring schemes for youth

It equips students with new skills & brings out the best in them

Mentoring is one way of giving young people the opportunity to develop in areas previously shut off to them. Example areas include – taking initiative, adopting a leadership role in some scenarios, improving communication, practicing team participation, making strong decisions and managing time and resources.

Every student has a unique personality, interests and talents, like a pool of potential waiting to be unlocked. Mentoring schemes can provide the right environment to nurture these aspirations and talents in order to maximise their futures. Horizons can be expanded, new ideas flourish and the best version of themselves can be unlocked through mentoring schemes.

Many of our programme business partners typically involve an element of presentation in their work experience weeks, so the students also develop their ability to present to an audience. This in itself is a skill often not cultivated until well into one's career, so it transpires to be a fantastic opportunity.

Giving students the experiences needed to develop a well-rounded skill set that factors in all of the crucial elements for a successful career, at such an early stage, can be life-changing.

It gives young people their first network

Dismantling the outdated ethos of it’s not what you know, it’s who you know – these programmes allow young people to make and maintain professional networks.

This can be the difference between meeting yet more people and opening many doors, versus feeling stifled by existing social standing. In this sense, our programmes offer powerful social mobility opportunities for students.

The ripple effect of expanded networks means many more young people can begin their careers with healthy networks and the ability to expand these as a means to maximise success. In a world where socialising is often limited to online only, this can be a fantastic tool.

It boosts confidence

Mentoring allows students to tentatively take baby steps with the support of a trusted confidant. This acts as a ‘cheat sheet’ to achieving confidence, as they have their own safety net for when feeling uncertain, so are more likely to take bold risks. In fact, a mentor can act as the mentee’s biggest cheerleader, which truly makes a world of difference.

At 16-18 years old, confidence can be a bit of an enigma for young people. Perhaps from negative past experiences or lack of opportunities, the youth of today may initially start out lacking in self-esteem. Through our mentoring schemes, however, participants have made marked improvements to their confidence, all of which have been detailed in our impact reports.

Confidence is a quality that needs to be learnt on the job, rather than being taught in a classroom, therefore it is often the last skill young people develop. Despite this, it is the cornerstone of success, so the students who master this skill early are often the ones who thrive in their careers. This leaves many young people (who have yet to develop inner confidence) behind.

It’s personalised

Whilst schools and career leads try their best to help their students flourish in career-based activities, they do not always have the resources to provide personalised advice. This is where youth mentoring stands out as a method for supporting young people.

What could be more powerful for a young person who is unsure of their abilities or career prospects, than tailored advice from someone who has been there and done that?

Making a marked difference compared to a one-size-fits-all approach, personalised mentoring can help young people identify a roadmap towards a brighter future for themselves. It can support them as they identify and work towards goals and recognise areas for improvement, allowing them to create a personalised career plan of action.

It helps students develop problem solving and critical thinking skills

Before taking part in such programmes, many young people find they’ve had few opportunities to apply critical thinking and problem solving skills to real world scenarios.

With gentle encouragement and questioning from a mentor, mentees can challenge their existing perspectives, helping to cultivate a healthy sense of balance, understanding multiple viewpoints and reflecting on difficulties. Mentoring encourages discussion and reflection, which can be the difference between simply taking part in something, or truly approaching a situation from multiple angles, with critical analysis.

Become a mentor for youth in your area

Take part in your very own mentoring scheme

If the Pathfinder Programme is something you feel you could have massively benefited from when you were a student, why not pay it forward now and make your own mark on the next generation? Speak to our team to find out how your own company’s Pathfinder Programme can transform the way you help local communities.

If you’d like to learn more about the impact youth mentorship can have on the lives of all involved, check out out impact reports.

Wiseup Networks - the home of youth mentoring

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