Mentoring young students boosts employee skills and engagement at leading businesses

Career Accelerator programme connects disadvantaged students with mentors at leading businesses

It is Learning at Work Week (15th to 21st May), an annual event to foster a culture of learning at work and Career Accelerator, a leading business education company, is highlighting how their mentoring programmes are helping employees from leading businesses to develop new skills, learn about diversity and inclusion and contribute to society.

Career Accelerator works with top companies, including Cisco, GoCardless and Pearson, to provide mentoring programmes that connect businesses with young students from diverse backgrounds, providing developmental opportunities for their employees and, at the same time, helping prepare these young people for their future careers.

Through Career Accelerator’s Neurodiversity and Disability programme and LGBT+ business mentoring, employees benefit from interacting with young people, enabling them to grow professionally and personally.

Businesses benefit, too, because they are building more diverse future talent pipelines and increasing employee engagement. Research by the social platform Neighbourly found that 85% of businesses find volunteering advances talent as part of the learning and development strategy, plus employees who have volunteered with their company are 13% happier than those who have not.

Mayur Gupta, CEO of Career Accelerator, said: “Mentoring gives employees a valuable and insightful way to gain new skills and have new experiences, plus give something back to their community by building young people’s confidence and knowledge as they start out in their working lives.

“Our programmes work with a diverse range of young people, including neurodiverse and disabled people and those from ethnic backgrounds, many of whom are not given the usual chances in life to access and thrive at work. In Learning at Work week, we encourage other businesses to get involved and offer their employees this unique volunteering opportunity. It’s a fantastic way to improve wellbeing, boost learning and development, plus position the business as a great place to work.”

GoCardless has been working with Career Accelerator for three years with their Race network and LGBT+ network running ethnicity business youth mentoring and LGBT+ business youth mentoring. 

Hamish Wood, Senior Director, Customer Experience and Advocacy, said the experience has been invaluable in helping employees develop new skills and confidence. He said: “Since we have been working with Career Accelerator, our employees have taken part in three sessions of the LGBT+ mentoring programme. This has been an enormous success. It has been a real development opportunity and has given us a practical way to give back and support young LGBT+ people as they plan for their future careers.

“Career Accelerator provided training for our mentors, so they felt confident going into the programme. There were also opportunities for mentors from other organisations to connect to share good practices, which was valuable. We also held a mentor and mentee dinner celebration event, which was a good way to finish. We look forward to our ongoing partnership with Career Accelerator and supporting more young LGBT+ people.”

Dan Jahner, Director of Product Management at GoCardless, said: “I was able to share some general career advice and talk through topics like self-confidence and imposter syndrome that were causing them concern. It was helpful for me to understand their perspective and concerns as a new job seeker. Beyond the general benefits of understanding new perspectives, I think it is especially beneficial in hiring to better empathise with candidates entering the job market”.

Megan McDonald, Product Manager at GoCardless, said: “It was a good way to complement some of the work I’ve been doing within my division to improve diversity. It would sometimes confirm or disprove some hypotheses I might have about – for example, getting more women into STEM-related careers”.

Another employee said: “It allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and try something I wouldn’t have ordinarily signed up for. I was also able to work on my communication skills. The experience gave me the opportunity to step out of the normal day-to-day responsibilities of my role and work on something different.”

Cisco has been working with Career Accelerator for three years on the LGBT+ and Neurodiversity and Disability programmes and their schools’ programmes.

Mariia Dryhval, Apprentice at Cisco, said: “I was able to help my mentee understand the options available to help them to understand what would be best for them in the near future. Also, I answered their questions as I was in their position not long ago, and I know how difficult it can be to make the ‘right’ choice. I gained new skills and knowledge on how to be an effective mentor. I will also consider mentoring in the future.”

Pearson has also worked with Career Accelerator for two years on the LGBT+ and Neurodiversity and Disability programmes.

Havana Abid, SVP Finance & Operations at Pearson, said: “As a company dedicated to improving lives through learning, this programme gave me a unique opportunity as an employer mentor to work directly with young neurodivergent people.

“The Career Accelerator programme was a great way to connect with and guide students through a series of mentoring and coaching sessions in a meaningful way, sharing my own experience, helping them better understand and explore the world of work and enriching the learning by turning this into real-life impact for them.

“The sessions were amazing, fun, and humbling as I got to work with very talented young people starting on their work journeys and through the mentoring, helping them create career and work pathways. This programme resonated deeply with me as I am a parent of a neurodivergent student as well as professionally, as Pearson is all about helping people realise the life they imagine through learning and work skills.

“I would recommend any employer out there to get involved in the programme – it was a fantastic and rewarding experience, allowing me to bring what I do every day to life for these learners.”

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