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Career Advice

A Chat With Southend’s 60 Minute Mentor Programme

Last week we were delighted to report on an ambitious programme being delivered by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council which is helping students within the area to discover and learn about the career opportunities that are open to them.

The 60 Minute Mentor Programme utilises the skills and experience of local businesses and organisations who play an active role in delivering the programme through 60 minute mentor sessions and a range of other activities.   

It’s a completely free programme and compliments each school’s existing careers department to further develop young people’s awareness and understanding of life beyond school and full-time education.

We were very intrigued to learn more about the work that the team is doing within the Southend-on-Sea borough council area, and so caught up with Rosie from the economic development team for a chat.

 

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Hi Rosie, so first-off can you tell us some of the reasons why Southend-on-Sea Borough council has created the 60 Minute Mentor programme?  What benefits does the team hope that it will bring to the local area?

60MM is targeted specifically at the Borough’s next working generation. The programme has been created to increase the aspirations of Southend’s young people and to also increase the knowledge around the different career pathways available to them.

The team hopes that this programme will provide a service available to all schools in the local area, which can assist all students engaged with the programme to make better-informed decisions throughout their education to achieve a career which is right for them.

 

How would you describe the career opportunities which are available to young people within the local area, and are there any disciplines for which you think the career prospects could be improved?

The career opportunities in Southend-on-Sea are vast due to our six main key sectors and the range of different businesses we have. These include; Culture & Creative, Business Support, Engineering & Aviation, Medical Technologies, Retail and Tourism.

We work very closely with our schools, colleges, universities and businesses to encourage young people to have the skills to obtain an improved career path. We have good relationships with stakeholders in order to develop the right skills for young people and adults for a career in these sectors. This is why the 60 Minute Mentor scheme is so important as it gives people an insight of the local businesses and the skills required to go into a particular field.

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What are some of the biggest challenges facing young people in terms of career prospects within the Southend area and how can this programme help to alleviate some of these difficulties?

With this broad range of industries an issue we face is that young people are unaware of the career opportunities available to them on their doorstep. By getting individuals from local businesses to become mentors we hope to improve this, which will open a young person’s eyes to their future.

 

The benefits schools and their pupils can get from being involved in the 60 Minute Mentor Programme are pretty self-explanatory- but why should businesses from the local area be keen to get involved?

Many local businesses get involved because it is an opportunity to give back to the local community. It is a chance for the mentors to share their passion for the industry they are in along with potentially attracting the next working generation to their business or a job with their field.

Our mentors have said that the key reason for getting involved in 60 Minute Mentor was to provide students helpful hints and tips they wish they had known when they was in school.

Young people are not aware of the variety of careers they could be involved with and lack certain skills required in the work place. Advice from business mentors, who are in that environment each day, can be helpful for when a young person starts the first job. This helps businesses, as they will be able to employ a young person with confidence.

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Can you give us an overview of a mentor’s journey through the programme?  How much time would they have to commit and what kind of activities would they be expected to undertake?

The programme is really flexible, the general commitment from a mentor is a one hour session in a school or another education environment. Business mentors are able to choose how often they would like to be part of the scheme and if they would like to do more than one session.

Initially the mentor will have a phone conversation or face to face meeting with myself to find out more information about the scheme and if the programme suits them. It is also a great opportunity for us to find out more about the mentor, as they may have assets which would be ideal to share with a young person that we were not aware of.

Once a mentor is on board they will be added to the database and asked to do a session when a school requests a session in that industry. A date which suits both the mentor and school will be arranged. We always make sure that it is arranged suitably for the mentor as we are mindful that they are giving up their time for free out of a busy working day.

Mentors can choose whether they would prefer complete a session in primary schools, secondary schools or in colleges and are also able to choose what size group they would like to present to.

Before a session the mentor will be briefed on the student’s age range, and what key areas the school would like the mentor to focus on. Mentors can produce a power point presentation to assist their session.

We are also keen for the mentor and school to meet before the 60 Minute Mentor sessions so relationships are made. This is usually a week or so before, however this is not imperative, due to time constraints mentors may have.

On the day, one of the team is usually on hand to support the mentor and sits in the session.

At the end of the session, I usually will ask the young people for any feedback and also speak to the mentor for their thoughts.

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Can you give us a sense of how the programme has been received to date from the perspective of both pupils and mentors?

60 Minute Mentor begun in 2012 and was run at a local venue every quarter. Over the past four years, we have managed to run sessions in schools and colleges along with growing our mentor list. The sessions have also changed, with some now being more sector specific where it was originally more generalised.

We have a few quotes from our young people and mentors which really highlight the success of this programme

One of our mentors Luke has said:

“It is a great feeling of being able to assist young children in anyway during a difficult time where a lot of pressure is placed on them on important decisions. For the students, I hope, it gives them an honest insight to a potential journey to reaching the goals that they have set out”.

What a student Janay thought after a session in travel and tourism

“This session has given me a further insight into this industry and has reinforced my interest in getting a job relating to this topic”

Harry a college student said after a session on apprenticeships in ICT

“It was good to hear about apprenticeships in detail and it is nice to know other options besides university”

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How does the 60 Minute Mentor Programme sit in relation to the council’s other efforts to help local young people to become more informed about the career opportunities on their doorstep?

Our ambition is for all young people residents in Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to become better qualified and more employable; to be able to participate and achieve success in education, apprenticeship or employment with training. Our strategy sets out how we hope to achieve this, and by working with local businesses, the skills the young people acquire are not lost.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to tell us about the 60 Minute mentor programme or the other work that the council is doing in relation to young people’s prospects within the borough?  

The council is always seeking to find new ways of improving the prospects for the young people within the borough and it is a key priority. It is set out in our skills strategy along with our Local Economic Development strategy.

We are currently working with other stakeholders on projects in the borough in relation to young peoples prospects for the future which includes Career Enterprise Company, Career Ready and a Job Centre Plus initiative. These projects and others are collaborating with schools, colleges, education providers and businesses to improve the future of the next generation.

At the current moment we are putting a big emphasis on 60 Minute Mentor so one day all schools and education providers will be engaged with the programme. Our young people and businesses in the borough will be able to benefit from this as a result.

 

Thanks for the chat Rosie,

Any schools or people from the local business community who would like to get involved with the 60 Minute Mentor programme, should contact Rosie at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council for more information.  RosiePowley@southend.gov.uk

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