Businesses discuss BCU's mentoring programme

BCU's Professional Mentoring Programme is back. To celebrate, current mentors on the scheme discuss the benefits that the programme has brought them. 

Posted 04 February 2022

A mentor assisting students with work on the computer.

What is the professional mentoring programme?

The Professional Mentoring programme is a university-wide scheme aimed at helping students to develop their employability skills, build confidence and raise aspirations.

The programme provides local businesses with a wonderful opportunity to tap into local talent, build their contacts and meet some of the employees of tomorrow.

You could have the opportunity to provide invaluable support to students and their career decisions.

The ten-week programme involves a minimum of five hours of one-to-one-sessions between mentor and mentee.

These sessions will help students and graduates develop their employability skills, increase their confidence and prepare them for the professional working environment.

In just over two years, 667 students and graduates have been paired with a professional mentor, with huge benefits to both the mentee and mentor.

As the University for Birmingham, 66 percent of BCU’s students hail from the West Midlands and are likely to remain in the area after graduating.

We spoke to a number of those who have participated in the professional mentoring scheme to outline just how rewarding the journey is.

Encouraging diversity in business

BCU is home to a diverse student demographic – 54 percent of its students are from a Black or Ethnic Minority background.

Therefore, it is vital that BCU’s students have the option to learn from and liaise with a mentor from a similar background.

Our professional mentoring scheme is committed to ensuring our mentors can understand the challenges our mentees face and come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Sanina Kaur, Director of copywriting and digital marketing agency SK Copy Co, feels diversity in mentoring is “extremely important.”

“We need to make sure mentees are paired with professionals who aren’t just from their desired profession, but have some understanding of their journey,” she says.

It’s a feeling echoed by fellow mentor Alston Owens, a management consultant for healthcare management company GBP Consults.

Diversity offers new ideas, and also enables the stereotype of a certain role – an engineer, for example – to be dismantled,” they said in a previous interview with BCU Advantage.

“It’s important to show to mentees that there is a place at the table for everybody.”

Encouraging better diversity in business has been a key driver of Sione Raaijmakers – co-founder of Women Unltd – since becoming a mentor.

“The lack of role models for young female creatives is a big problem,” she says.

“Most young female creatives never worked with a female creative leader. It’s vital to offer my support to ensure creative leadership will be diverse in the future.”

Watching students' confidence soar

Sione has gained a lot from the programme, too – namely, seeing her mentee’s confidence grow.

“At the start of the programme, some mentees are unsure about their abilities and almost apologetic about their work,” she says. “It’s great to see this change into confidence and clarity as the programme progresses.”

Alex Pitts, Midlands Recruitment Manager at Applause IT, has supported a number of mentees and loves seeing their confidence grow with each passing week.

“The highlight for me is them being more comfortable in what they’re seeking to do next, and how they can best utilise their experiences to date to help them be successful,” he says.

“For students, it’s a great chance to use the mentor as a sounding board to discuss potential options, ideas and thoughts on where they’re looking to head next.”

Becoming a mentor is mutually beneficial. Not only does it help grow your network and expose you to new talent, it also provides you with the opportunity to see things differently and learn new skills.

“In all honesty, I think I have learned and benefited just as much as my mentees,” Rochelle says. “They are such an intelligent, curious and enthusiastic bunch, and they ask me as many challenging questions as I ask them.”

Sione also feels she has gained a lot from the programme.

“Having interactions with the next generation pulls me out of my own world,” she says. “It helps me see the world and industry through their eyes.”

Interested in becoming a mentor? Registration is now open for anyone willing to take part.