Jane Gay (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marion Webb, Academic Development Centre
The Business and Law School works tirelessly with their Level 5 students to promote the benefits of undertaking a placement opportunity. As part of this endeavour, Maggie Boyden and Sally Pitfield (Placement officers) have recruited 19 level 6 – post placement students to take up the challenge of mentoring level 5 students as they go about planning to secure a placement. The scheme is not meant to replace the support and work of the placement office but to complement it; mentors are reminded of the complexity of the application process and the motivation needed to keep going. This model of mentoring students as they complete their applications and prepare for placement interviews was initiated last year, (2010-11).
While the mentors were willing and keen and had had some training, the mentees, by and large, did not engage with the process particularly well. This year, while the mentors were offered training we have also addressed the needs of the mentees at the outset by raising their awareness of the benefits (and the costs) of the process. We also recognised that mentors and mentees could establish more of a ‘bond’ if they actually met one another in a relaxed environment before getting down to placement related work. In early October, having already spent a stimulating few hours putting the very able mentors through their paces, I was asked to meet with the mentees to explore their expectations. We had devised a skills audit which, once completed revealed both strengths and skills’ gaps associated with employability. Mentees were ready to discuss skills they wanted to develop with their mentors. After a discussion of the risks and challenges of being mentored – the group were given the names of their mentors and invited to ‘find’ their mentor in an adjoining room where refreshments were available. The mentors had been allocated at least 2 mentees and this facilitated introductions and chat – essential networking skills. I overheard snippets of conversations as Mentors confidently began sharing their recent, successful placement stories in answer to questions from their mentees. 46 mentees are now established with their 19 mentors. The ice has been broken, and rapport, hopefully established. This, we think, will make a significant difference to the level of commitment to the scheme.
If you are interested in looking at the resources we are using to support this initiative, or you would like to talk about initiating a peer support scheme do get in touch.