Lauren Brown: Mentor scheme is just the job to prepare youngsters for world of work

A  Career Ready Programme Mentor Matching session at the Alpine, Douglas, where computer professionals talk to students
A Career Ready Programme Mentor Matching session at the Alpine, Douglas, where computer professionals talk to students
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Getting today’s school ­leavers prepared for work is much more than simply offering them a job. The rate of change in the jobs market has grown exponentially in the last ten years, with today’s pupils set to eventually work in job roles that are yet to be created. If that’s not daunting enough, how do we ­fully prepare them for tomorrow’s job market, so their skills are appropriate and adaptable given what might lie ahead?

Providing 5th year school pupils who are considering their future education and career options with a programme of mentoring from the business community is a pragmatic and pioneering opportunity to help this transition from education into the workplace. It connects a young person directly to the world of work, expanding their network and building confidence and awareness.

Lauren Brown, Developing the Young Workforce - West Lothian Regional Group

Lauren Brown, Developing the Young Workforce - West Lothian Regional Group

The skills and experiences that a young person gains through mentoring can set them up for life. The hope is that a young person effectively ­navigates pathways that connect their education and future employment to achieve a fulfilling, financially secure and successful career.

It’s one of the reasons why, as an employer, Developing the Young Workforce – West Lothian has been involved with Career Ready, a fantastic charitable organisation which offers a structured mentoring programme with a social mobility focus.

Currently at the halfway point of mentoring a local young ­person through the Career Ready ­programme, which in our region is funded by West Lothian Council, our organisation has found the experience to be transformational for both the pupil and for the mentor.

DYW West Lothian got involved as an employer at the beginning of the last academic year (September 2017). My colleague, Arlene Nicol – DYW’s project liaison officer – became a mentor to Rachel, an S5 pupil from one of the local secondary schools in Livingston.

The mentoring aspect of the ­programme involved a series of meetings between our mentor and the pupil, which took place ­several times throughout the academic year, mainly at our offices which has helped to familiarise Rachel with the workplace environment.

At an early stage we also wanted Rachel involved in what we do and so we also included her in several key school-business events throughout the year. These experiences helped to develop Rachel’s ­confidence, communication skills and ability to work as part of a team. The next stage of the two-year ­mentoring programme was for our mentee to complete a four-week paid internship over the summer period. Very quickly, our intern integrated into the team, proving herself to be polite, professional, eager to learn and a true team player.

She took everything in her stride when it came to undertaking responsibilities that she had not yet experienced. At the end of the internship, all Career Ready interns are asked to deliver a presentation in their final week, highlighting what they had learned. We watched proudly as our intern presented to a room of nine adults, not an easy task for many, and her confidence and ­passion shone through.

As an employer, it was an extremely rewarding experience working with Rachel for those four weeks. We have played a real and significant part in building a young person’s confidence and equipping them with the core workplace skills that employers are looking for.

However, we also learned from Rachel just as much as we hope she learned from us. It goes without ­saying that a young person provides fresh ideas and perspective in the workplace, and for us this was hugely worthwhile, especially given the nature of our project which focuses on creating opportunities for local young people.

Arlene said: “As Rachel’s mentor, it has been wonderful to work with her as part of our team. She has been a real asset, getting involved in all aspects of the Developing the Young Workforce agenda.”

At the end of her internship, Rachel said: “Career Ready is a great experience for both the mentor and mentee. I have learned so much while doing my mentoring and my internship and I am so much more confident about going into the world of work. Thank you for the amazing experience.”

As Rachel now moves on to the next stage of her journey towards the world of work, we have the privilege of mentoring her for another year and watching her further develop on a personal and professional level.

We hope that the transformational effect of the Career Ready ­programme will propel Rachel – and the hundreds of other young people participating in the programme across Scotland - forward into a positive future career.

Lauren Brown, project manager, Developing the Young Workforce – West Lothian Regional Group.