Could you be a mentor and change a young person’s life?

Chris Tomlinson of Westover Veterinary Practice in North Walsham, one of the current student mentors

Chris Tomlinson of Westover Veterinary Practice in North Walsham, one of the current student mentors at North Walsham High School. Picture: Westover Veterinary Practice. - Credit: Westover Veterinary Practice

Business people and employers from across Norfolk are being encouraged to volunteer as mentors and inspire the next generation of talent.

North Walsham High School's mentoring scheme, which is aimed at helping high schools students gain confidence and employability skills necessary in later life, has already been emulated by schools as far away as Truro.

The fifth year of the scheme will be launched in February, and interested employers can find out more at a business breakfast at the school next month.

Mentors take on between two and five Year 9 student mentees, and meet regularly with them over a two-and-a-half-year period, as well as being available via email and telephone, to offer support and advice on qualifications, skills needed to progress towards their ambitions, and to help motivate and inspire them. They receive training, and are required to complete a DBS check.

Participating students have spoken of how the experience built their self-esteem, and guided them in their choices for the future.

Mentors have also reported that taking part has been a rewarding experience, helping their own personal development, as well as ensuring that tomorrow's workforce has the skills needed to be useful employees.

Kate Lawn, who is co-ordinating the initiative, said: 'Our mentoring programme is designed to provide role models for our students. We want them to be inspired, motivated, confident, and full of self-belief.'

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'We need to develop their soft skills to improve their long-term employment prospects, because the latest research shows that this has huge benefits for both students and employers in the medium and long term. Employers have highlighted that employability skills are lacking in young people, so our aim is to build on these to enable them to progress in the world of work.

'We believe that all of our students benefit from mentoring, and it should be an entitlement for all. Limited aspirations, low confidence, a weak sense of personal urgency and a limited understanding of career opportunities are shared across all ability levels.'

The business breakfast to find out more takes place at North Walsham High School on January 23 from 7am to 8.30am. Book a place by contacting Kate Lawn Monday to Wednesday on 01692 402581 or by email on

The 2017 scheme will be launched at a 'Speed Networking' event at the school on February 7.

'It's knowing that life is more than earning money'

For mentor Chris Tomlinson, director at the Westover Veterinary Practice in North Walsham, taking part in the scheme enables him to give something back to the community, as well as interact with the next generation.

'When you are 14 or 15, you often don't know what you want to do, and hearing from someone who enjoys their job, and for whom life is exciting, can be motivating,' he said.

'It's about sowing the seeds into their lives, challenging them, and showing that they can

aspire to be something special – that is really important.

'But it's not just about what the students get out of it. After 30 years as a vet, I enjoy being able to give something back into the community, as well as having the opportunity to interact with the next generation.

'Being a mentor has given me the satisfaction of knowing that life is more than earning money, it's about building communities. They say it takes a village to raise a child, not just a mum and dad, and it's really satisfying to contribute to that process.'