Business mentors are empowering young people

Published: July 10, 2019

Some of Shropshire’s top business talents have joined forces with Telford College students as part of a national campaign to connect more young people with industry mentors.

The college is among just a handful of sites chosen to take part in the ‘One Million Mentors’ programme.

The scheme has been inspired by the ‘Spirit of 2012’ initiative which was launched after the London Olympics, and also honours the memory of former MP Jo Cox.

It aims to connect one million mentors, from a variety of industries, sectors and backgrounds, with young people, in a bid to increase youth employability, support social action and help break down social barriers.

Telford College’s Orange Tree restaurant was full to capacity for the event, which brought A level students together with a range of potential mentors.

Companies represented included finance firm ReAssure, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, HS2 and Foden’s Solicitors, as well as the borough’s mayor and mayoress, Stephen and Shirley Reynolds.

Zahid Howladar, delivery team manager of the One Million Mentors programme, kicked off the event, saying: “Mentors learn as much from their relationship with young people as young people learn from them.

“I hope this is one of many events – and we believe that every young person should have access to a mentor. In the words of the late Jo Cox, we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Zahid's speech
Holly Davies

Holly Davies, head of the 7th Form at Telford College, said: “Young people really do want this experience. There’s been a huge amount of interest in this event – Telford College is really excited to be part of it.

“We want to empower and encourage our young people to talk to mentors to enhance their employability skills.”

Two A Level students, Faye Oliver and Tom Heap followed Holly’s speech to explain their thoughts on the mentoring scheme.

Faye said: “It’s a tailored approach to the specific individual and their career, rather than the whole class.”

Tom added: “I’m looking for a role in the police force, and teachers may not always be able to assist with that. It would be really useful for me to have a mentor that has experience of this industry.”

Sarah Amos, organisational development and support officer in the NHS, said: “In the NHS we have all mentors – the organisation really believes in that support, and we’re also encouraged to give back by volunteering ourselves.”

Next, mayor Stephen Reynolds spoke to the ‘inspiring’ group, saying: “It is wonderful to see young people thinking about the future.

 “The collaboration between Telford College and One Million Mentors is fantastic and I sincerely thank both for hosting such a wonderful event. Mentor support can provide essential skills and brighten the futures of Telford and Wrekin’s young people.”

Students mingled with mentors, asking them questions in a ‘speed-dating’ style matching process.

Kelly Davies of Fodens with the mayor and mayoress of Telford & Wrekin
Faye Oliver

 Faye Oliver, 17, studying English language, sociology and psychology at A Level, said: “I’m not entirely sure exactly what career I’d like to go into. I’d just like to generally talk about which careers are available to me, as I do know I’d like to do something writing-based or journalistic perhaps. Speaking to someone with that sort of experience would be really helpful.”

Cole Gibney, 17, is also studying three A Levels, and is looking to focus on psychology. “I’d like to talk to somebody with experience in the psychology field,” he said.

“I want to study psychology at degree level next, and I’m thinking about a career in counselling.”

Kelly Davies, a director at Foden’s Solicitors, spoke of her excitement about the programme. She said: “I feel like I’m in a position to really support a young person and share my knowledge.”

One Million Mentors was founded on the belief that through personal, one-to-one mentoring, more young people can grow the knowledge, networks, skills and confidence they need to succeed. 

The ambitious programme backs the talents of young people to improve their career chances; connecting them with an ever-growing network of businesses and professionals while at the same time strengthening local communities.