The social value in mentoring

We would like to issue a challenge to companies working within the public sector to rethink how they could support the emerging new generation of workers in a post-lockdown world. It’s great for the construction sector to be embracing the idea of ‘building back better’ but at John Rowan and Partners we have an idea of what ‘better’ could actually look like…

Now that the construction industry is beginning to ramp up its work programme, we don’t want to lose sight of what building back better could mean in the public sector, particularly for the young people that live and work within the communities we work in.

The public sector has a long history of promoting social value through procurement but we feel now is the time to make this even more robust and really define what value we can provide to the communities that really need it.

Don’t underestimate the value in mentoring

There are many ways that businesses like ours can help communities – whether it’s working with local schools or colleges to provide work experience or CV writing workshops, participating in mentoring programmes or joining forces with organisations like the Construction Youth Trust.

The construction industry has a great history in sharing its skills and expertise with the wider community, but the impact of Covid makes this even more important.

We are in a world now where unemployment is rising, businesses are folding, and others are merging to try and save costs. The same is true for our clients, such as housing associations, and there’s a real need to address the skills and experience gap this environment creates – and that doesn’t only apply to young people who are just starting out on their career journeys.

Use your professional skills

Putting our ‘money where our mouth is’, we have been working with the Housing Diversity Network (HDN) to help mentor people working in the housing sector. Made up of housing associations, the HDN is a social enterprise that aims to inspire and empower people, promoting equality, diversity and opportunity for all. It uses mentoring as a way of enabling individuals to tap into the experience of people already working in similar fields, or whose skill sets overlap.

I personally first started working with HDN a couple of years ago and I have now mentored three separate individuals, supporting them with advice and training that’s directly related to their current job situations and their career aspirations. I’m proud to say that my first mentee won a ‘Overall Best immersed Mentee” award.

Benefits go both ways

It is hugely rewarding seeing how individuals grow in the six months you work with them, and to see their evident desire and enthusiasm for personal development.

The HDN matches you to candidates and provide you with training to ensure you can give your ‘mentee’ the best support possible. My next mentoring challenge begins in September, and I’m really looking forward to it.

The HDN is just organisation you could work with however and we are also about to work with local schools as part of the London Enterprise Advice Network (LEAN) as an enterprise adviser.

LEAN is another great example of how professionals can help young people to build the skills and experiences they need to lead successful futures. It does this by connecting businesses with schools and colleges. This ensures that young people are aware of all the career pathways and opportunities available to them.

Enterprise advisers volunteer their time to help school and college careers leaders increase their engagement with businesses and to access local careers resources. I’ll be working with careers leaders to make sure encounters between students and employers are the basis of a structured careers plan. This has the goal of making sure young Londoners from all backgrounds can access the opportunities that the capital has to offer.

I think the schools and colleges are likely to encounter some enormous challenges following the Covid lockdown and I feel it is our moral responsibility to be proactive so that we can support our future generations.

Get involved

I appreciate mentoring may not be for everyone, but I do believe that all businesses have a role to play and something they can offer. Maybe it’s offering work experience, or providing career advice and support, or running mock interview sessions via zoom or another on-line platform.

If the construction industry is serious about ‘building back better’ then we need to be smarter in the ways we support people in the shorter term.

We must make sure the young people who live within the communities we work in don’t miss out, and with so many different companies working within the public sector and specifically affordable housing, I firmly believe that we could really make a difference!

If you are interested in mentoring here are some useful resources and organisations to get in touch with:

The Housing Diversity Network

Construction Youth Trust

London Enterprise Adviser Network

Ken Morgan is a Partner and Head of the Public Sector Regeneration team at John Rowan and Partners.