As we continue to grow and adapt our online delivery in response to COVID-19, recent weeks have seen the launch of EY Foundation’s innovative virtual mentoring programme.
This programme was only an idea just a few weeks ago, so I’m delighted that 71 young people aged 16-21 and 72 volunteers from across the country are now involved in the six-week programme, which includes small group and 1:1 mentoring sessions focussed on personal progression and employment support. The help and encouragement we have had from volunteers, not just on this but across our programmes, have been tremendous and is instrumental in allowing us to develop our online approach and finding new ways to support young people from low-income backgrounds.
Feedback has already been very encouraging. After the first session, a mentee emailed: “Thank you so much for the meeting earlier. I feel like I now have a spring back in my step and you made me feel so at ease!”
Volunteers are also seeing the benefits; Helen, a mentor, has been inspired by the young people she is working with:
What struck me the most about our mentees is how much they have already achieved and experienced in their lives. The bravery in some of their life choices and work ethic is incredible and I can already see them thriving when they go down their chosen paths. I can genuinely say it was the highlight of my week […] I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested to give it a try – I can guarantee you will thoroughly enjoy it.
Her co-mentor Carl has termed his experience “one of the highlights of the lockdown so far […] my takeaway from the experience was that it was great fun. My jaw still aches from all the smiling.”
The new Skills Builder Universal Framework (which the Foundation helped to develop) has been key in forming a structured yet flexible approach to mentoring, whilst maintaining a keen focus on developing and identifying the skills necessary at all stages of employment. Young people enrolled in the programme are due to take part in sessions exploring essential skills, including listening, teamwork, leadership, creative thinking and more.
Those involved will also be exploring progression routes, be they apprenticeships, further education or work, and the steps to make these routes a reality, with mentors offering feedback on CVs or personal statements and sharing learnings from their own career journeys. Discussions will be wide-ranging and collaborative – proposed topics range from volunteering, extracurricular activities, and self-improvement to travel and personal branding.
Whilst I am excited to see the impact on and responses of the young people involved, I am also reminded of the relationships developed through mentorship, and more specifically the reciprocal benefits felt on both sides as mentors and mentees learn and grow alongside one another. Connecting people across the country and allowing space for 1:1 support and communication seem particularly pertinent during a time in which we are physically distanced. Our plan is to continue online mentoring beyond this initial six-week programme, so if you’d like to get involved – as a mentor or mentee – please get in touch.