Learning at Work Week 2022 runs from 16 - 22nd May. Coordinated by the Campaign for Learning and supported by national activity partners, it is a unique annual event to build learning cultures at work and aims to put a spotlight on the importance and benefits of continual learning and development.
Several Business West staff have been learning new skills at work, by taking part in the West of England Mentoring Programme (WEM), run by Ablaze in Bristol. We caught up with Eleanor Ferrari to find out more about the programme and why she decided to take part.
Hi Eleanor, tell me a bit more about yourself and your role at Business West?
I've been working in the marketing team at Business West for the past 8 months as a Marketing Executive. My main responsibilities are delivering marketing campaigns for events and activities, through email campaigns and social media. I love the creative aspect of working within the marketing department and working with a wide range of people outside and inside of the organisation.
Please tell me about the mentoring programme and why you decided to sign up?
WEM is a fantastic initiative to help local high school students raise their aspirations, follow their interests and make plans for the world of work after they leave education. We’re running six, 90 minute mentoring sessions with 12 pupils from Patchway Community School, with each session covering a different topic, such as role models, career choices and pathways, and employability and CVs.
Having enjoyed worked with young children in the past and being able to relate to the students about feeling confused about what I wanted to do ‘when I grew up', I thought this would be a valuable programme to be a part of. Everyone has their own strengths and skills and as mentors we are trying to help the students realise that nothing is out of reach, and that it’s okay to change their mind and try different things.
What sort of tasks have you carried out as part of the mentoring programme?
The majority of tasks that we carry out are interactive and have a high level of student talking time. From the first week, we had the students help us write a list of ground rules that we would all respect throughout the course. This set out a great precedent that we were all on a level playing field and that there were no wrong answers. As mentors we’ve taken it in turns to plan and present the different topics, using material from WEM as well as our own suggestions and ideas. We try to keep the students engaged by mixing in mentor led games, (for example deciding whether or not different celebrities were ‘good’ or ‘bad’ role models), group activities, which have involved discussions around career options, and individual thinking tasks, during which we help encourage them and discuss their ideas.
What skills have you gained from taking part?
There are lots of benefits and skills that I’ve developed through taking part in the mentoring scheme. Not only does it help with confidence in public speaking and thinking on your feet (especially when your audience is teenagers!), but it’s a great opportunity to listen to the students, understand where they’re coming from and encourage them to find something to work towards or get excited about. As well as this, having the opportunity to plan a session is great for thinking creatively and getting organised. These are all things that I can apply in my role within the marketing team.
What have you enjoyed most so far about taking part?
I was a bit apprehensive before the sessions began about the students being disengaged and unbothered by the activities and tasks, but it’s been really refreshing to see them all contribute and give their own opinions. It’s been particularly nice to see some of the quieter students growing in confidence as we move through the sessions. I’ve enjoyed engaging with them and being able to help them recognise their own skills and strengths that they might not have realised they had.
Not only that, it’s lovely to work with colleagues who I wouldn’t typically meet in my day to day work and get to know them more; being quite new to the company it’s always great to meet new people from the business!
Why do you think it's important for staff to continually learn and develop new skills?
Although the sessions are aimed at the students to help them raise their aspirations and follow their interests, it’s also a great opportunity for us as mentors to do some self-reflection about what we want to achieve in the next week, month or year. As we’ve mentioned to the students, for a lot of people your goals and aspirations in life will change and develop and that’s completely normal. Learning new skills within the workplace can open new doors for employees, give them new found inspiration and help them with their satisfaction and mental wellbeing. There is no time limit on pursuing new things!
As a business, if you’re interested in learning more about the West of England Mentoring Programme, or how else your business can engage with schools, colleges or universities, please get in touch with the skills team by clicking here.