If you’re so good, prove it!

The business world regularly tells us that young people aren’t equipped with the skills that they need from their employees. Indeed, the 2015 British Chambers of Commerce survey revealed that 69% of businesses did not believe that secondary schools were properly preparing children for the world of work. But we also know that only in 40% of schools are young people having even one encounter with an employer a year. Which begs the question, why aren’t more businesses getting involved in activities to prepare young people for the world of work?

At the heart of the Careers and Enterprise Company’s ambition is the determination to enable more businesses to get involved in schools to bridge the gap between young people and the workplace. A key element of this must be to persuade more employers to encourage their staff to get involved in youth mentoring programmes, particularly the excellent schemes delivered by the 39 providers which receive funding support through the Company’s Mentoring Fund.

Whilst many employers do champion mentoring, the blunt truth is that not enough do so. And the companies that do support mentoring schemes tend to be disproportionately drawn from the professional services and finance sectors. If we are truly to encourage companies from across all sectors to get involved in supporting youth mentoring schemes, we need to move way beyond well-meaning exhortations to the social consciences of business leaders with feel-good stories of the benefits of mentoring to a hard-headed evidence base that appeals to the bottom line. In these uncertain economic times, anyone calling upon businesses to pick up the not inconsiderable opportunity costs of employee volunteering needs to be able to set out in punchy detail the benefits that will accrue to the company. In pounds, shillings and pence!

In the US, the National Mentoring Partnership paired up with EY to produce a compelling report on the power and promise of private sector engagement in youth mentoring (the headlines of which I shared in my previous blog). This is a great piece of work which paints a powerful picture. Unsurprisingly, however, it speaks very much to the US experience and also is focused on large bluechip companies. If we are to persuade more UK businesses from a much wider range of sectors and of a much greater variety of sizes to get engaged with mentoring, we need similar research much more focused on the UK experience. Mentoring organisations need to be able to show that the cost of losing someone from the office for a day is more than repaid to the employer, as well as society more generally. These arguments need to be aimed squarely at convincing sceptical Finance Directors or stretched CEOs, providing robust and quantifiable arguments for the benefits of employer-led mentor volunteering.

All of the mentoring organisations funded by the Careers & Enterprise Company’s Mentoring Fund have strong systems in place to track the impact of their programmes on the young people involved as mentees. All of the providers also survey their volunteer mentors on their experience on the schemes, normally focused on issues such as their satisfaction with the training and mentoring experience. Only a minority, however, track the benefits of mentoring on the adults involved. Anecdotally, we know that many companies consider mentoring as one of the most cost-effective development tools for their staff at their disposal. So, to win over those who may be more sceptical about the value of their staff spending time in schools rather than at their desks, we need to be able to quantify very clearly the benefits of mentoring that accrue to mentors and their companies. And we need to do this firmly within the UK contact from as broad a range of employees as possible. In short, if our mentoring programmes are so good — and they are — we need to prove it!

This is why, as a first step, the Careers & Enterprise Company has embarked on an important new survey of mentors to understand why they got in to mentoring, what they enjoyed about the experience and, vitally, the benefits that mentoring has brought to them as individuals. We are hoping that this will be the largest ever survey of employer-led youth mentoring in the UK.

From this ambitious survey, we hope to have one of the most comprehensive analyses yet of mentors in this field in the UK. We will be able to understand who gets involved, why the got involved, how they found the experience and, crucially, how they and their employer benefited from their involvement as a mentor. This should give us the evidence base to unlock a while new swathe of mentors up and down the country to deliver a step change in mentor provision for young people.

If you are, or have ever been, a mentor with young people in schools, we really hope that you will take just ten minutes to complete our survey so that we can prove just why every company should be encouraging its employees to become youth mentors. The deadline for responses is 15th September so don’t leave it too late to be a part of this important research!

First published 7 September 2017 – https://medium.com/@jonathanfreemanUK/if-youre-so-good-prove-it-60e7300defe3

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