North Walsham High School pupils mean business
- Credit: Andy Newman
North Walsham business people were provided with a networking opportunity with a difference when they were joined by high school students at a business breakfast held in the town, with the aim of encouraging them to take up the role of mentor to young people.
Around two dozen employers from the town met over coffee, croissants and bacon rolls at North Walsham High School to hear about the school's groundbreaking Mentoring Scheme, which is about to be launched for its fourth year.
Prospective mentors heard from business people who have already participated in the scheme, as well as a number of student mentees, who spoke about how the experience had helped build their confidence and self-esteem, as well as guiding them in their choices for the future.
Over 280 students are currently benefitting from having a mentor, with over 70 mentors taking part. Now the school is encouraging more to come forward to become mentors to current Year 9 students.
Mentors, who generally have between two and five mentees, meet regularly with their students 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.
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NWHS assistant head Paul Leaver, who is co-ordinating the school's Mentoring Scheme, told those attending the business breakfast. 'Being a mentor is such a rich experience,' he said.
'For the young people, it really increases their self-confidence, as well as helping them to gain a valuable insight into the working world. Importantly, it also helps them broaden their horizons, making them realise that there is a world out there, not just beyond the school gate, but beyond Norfolk as well.
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'The Mentoring Scheme also helps develop the 'soft skills' that students will need in later life, such as confidence in talking to other adults, understanding what is expected of an employee in terms of resilience and perseverance, and using one's initiative.
'Being mentored also improves their academic performance, not least because it gives them something to aim for, and puts all the hard work needed to gain qualifications into context.'
Nigel Lloyd, terminal manager at Interconnector UK, has been a mentor for three years with the scheme, and is on his second batch of student mentees. He told the meeting: 'It is so important that we build good links between business and our schools. We need to guide our young people, helping see the opportunities which are out there.
'It can be a bit daunting, it's a big responsibility – but it's good to use the skills that we have as employers to put something back into the next generation of employees.'
Year 10 student Nicholas Bishop, who is one of Mr Lloyd's current mentees, attended the breakfast to encourage prospective mentors to get involved. He said: 'My advice would be just to do it. You may not think your job will be particularly interesting for young people, but you will certainly have something to teach them.'
NWHS's mentoring scheme, which was first launched in 2014, has been emulated by other high schools, both in Norfolk and further afield, including a high school in Truro, Cornwall.
The 2017 scheme will be launched at an event at the school on Wednesday, February 8. Anyone interested in becoming a mentor can contact Kate Lawn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mentors receive training, and are required to complete a DBS check.