Our young people need YOU. The importance of mentors.

Earlier this week, at an excellent Footdown Leadership Forum, I came across a super organisation which mentors young people to prepare them for the world of work: SATRO. Based in Surrey and the South East, it reaches out to 15,000 young people each year (5,000 primary pupils and 10,000 secondary pupils), through a combination of programmes, festivals, workshops, challenges and one-to-one mentoring. Its Chief Executive, Dr Beccy Bowden, with whom I had an excellent and mutually affirming conversation, is clearly passionate about the need to get young people engaged with business (and, vice versa, business with young people) from an early stage, and clearly what she is doing is working.

A good mentor is someone who helps young people look up from, and beyond, the limitations of their daily lives, and helps them to aspire to a successful and fulfilling future in work. The SATRO mentoring programme focuses on students who are underachieving at school, and provides these young people with a trusted adult who can challenge them and coach them so that they can move out of negative patterns of thinking and start to explore genuine options for their future in work. Businesses benefit from these relationships too, as the mentors themselves learn a huge amount by engaging directly with young people, as well as improving their communication skills. The sense of satisfaction that comes from giving to the community and transforming a life is, too, immeasurable.

Why, though, do young people need mentors from the business world? Firstly, parents alone cannot prepare their children to be truly independent and ready to play a role in the wider world. Although most parents want their children to become independent, shades of emotional conflict – the desire to keep our children safe and protected – can hold them back. Moreover, young people need – really need – other adults to give them different perspectives on the world, and to help them understand its complexity. Without the willing engagement of other adults – adults in work, with views and experience to share – the lives of our young people are poorer, and their development harder. I firmly believe that it is our collective responsibility as a society to bring up our children, and we all need to be involved.

So … if you aren’t already mentoring a young person in some way, pick up the phone. Your time, your enthusiasm and your wisdom are all needed. Enrol today in the task.


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