One of the most valuable aspects of our Careers offer is that every child’s aspiration and destination is valued, whether university, apprenticeship, employment or further training. It is also known that one of the best ways to understand a role or an industry is to speak to those currently doing it but this is incredibly difficult when you are 15 years old and in full time education. Employers are busy, school time is demanding and making the connections is not easy.
At Heathfield one aspect of our career provision we are most proud of is our employer mentoring scheme. It has been running now for over 4 years, connecting young people with employers who are already working in the field they are interested in entering. It is a huge testament to the strength of the Heathfield community that these employers are willing to give their time for the young people in their locality on a voluntary basis, to share their expertise, mentor their progress and help them understand the transition from school to work. There are valuable insights that an independent person can give which shed new light on the advice parents and school may have already tried to impart.
This year, despite Covid lockdowns, illnesses and disruption our students and their mentors showed huge resilience to continue the programme. They connected weekly online and in person for a year enjoying mentoring or guidance and even managed workplace visits, building connections and understanding that would be impossible to gain in other ways. We were sadly unable to hold a celebration event like we have in previous years but students and staff were still able to reflect on the programme, their relationship with their mentors and the skills they gained from the activities. Their feedback was moving and we were determined to share it, so undeterred our students set off in the College minibus to deliver cards, gifts and a College letter of appreciation for all that their mentors have done for them.
Feedback included reflections such as:
- An appreciation for the work experience and the different skills learnt. They were impressed by the mentors work ethic and commitment.
- An appreciation for much time and energy mentors put into their business, understanding how it started and how they have invested in its development.
- They felt they had gained skills that would be valuable, such as managing employees and understanding the different elements of a business. Understanding work and apprenticeships from an employer’s perspective. Having their mind opened to a range of employment prospects.
- An appreciation for being shown what an interview would be like, answering questions and teaching them about a business. They recognise how to present themselves to others in that context and particularly noticed how employers modelled that in how they speak and interacted with others.
The students also gained support from the local employability organisation Wealden Works who provided such as learning how to compile a CV and how to conduct themselves in interviews both visually and orally. Their help enabling students to overcome interview nerves was particularly valued as well as supporting them to think through their next steps, post 16.
As a College we particularly appreciate how disjointed and difficult the programme may have felt this year, however, we are hugely impressed and grateful that the employers have stuck with us and shown the students the value of doing the same. They will have learnt an enormous amount just from time spent with them as role models as well as the overt conversations which will have shaped their thinking both now and into their future.
Students commented: “he opened up my mind up to a range of employment prospects, he was funny and kind and I am really grateful to the time he spent with me.” And others said “I now have a much better understanding of what is needed to work in childcare and the reality of daily life in a pre-school”. They could not believe how much the mentors gave of their time and the connection they forged over the years programme.
These local business owners and leaders have brought something to our young people which is inspirational and in a way that we as a school cannot match. We do not take anything for granted and appreciate the time have given to this.
We now start to look forward to a new cohort next year and a new set of mentors. If you would be willing to help us, please do get in touch!
2021-22 employer mentoring featuring:
Wealden Works – Lisa Crozier and Victoria Bowdler
Sheepsetting Pre-School – Jayne Williams and Louisa Carey
County – The Home Improvers – Mike Evans
Cuculo Deli – Cinzia Long
Newton and Frost Fencing Limited – Sally Frost