TechFuture Ambassadors and mentoring: defining best practice

By Karine Barsam, Head of TechFuture

A colleague recently told me they attended a public speaking master class and learned two things. Firstly, in all their presentations they need to say the word ‘you’ as many times as possible and, secondly, to think about the audience’s experience. The audience wants to feel at ease with what you are telling them; if you feel uncomfortable or nervous, they won’t enjoy watching you. These same rules can apply to mentoring. Therefore, considering the mentees’ requirements and focusing on their needs are imperative to successful engagement.

A few years ago, when I started my journey working on educational programmes, I recall overhearing a volunteer, from another industry, telling 13-year-old students to start thinking about their pension plans, as he believed this needed as much consideration as their pending GCSE options. Unsurprisingly he lost the attention of his audience and was not invited back. He clearly hadn’t thought about his audience. However, I have been to many volunteering sessions, where employers have inspired, been applauded and invited back time and time again because of their inspirational career stories, advice and guidance. They certainly understood their audience’s needs.

A mentor can offer tremendous insight and knowledge to all age groups throughout a student’s educational journey. It’s not only great for young people to hear about the variety of roles within an industry, but it is also heartening for employees to build their confidence and talent spot for the future.

There are plenty of do’s and don’ts in mentoring and research has highlighted that poor mentoring can be worse than no mentoring at all, particularly for vulnerable young people, (Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit, 2012). Therefore, sharing best practice is imperative to ensure a good experience for the mentor, the educational establishment and most of all the mentee.

Over the next six months, the Tech Partnership – with the support of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) – will be undertaking a study of the extent and impact of volunteering in schools by tech professionals.

We’ll be looking to:

  • Map the landscape across the UK for industry volunteering to help school students learn tech skills and find out about tech careers.
  • Explore different approaches and different models, particularly in terms of the recruitment of volunteers, engagement with schools and colleges, and the sustainability of programmes.
  • Assess the impact of volunteering and provide examples of best practice.

With over 1.4m digital professionals being needed over the next five years in the UK, mentoring is a great way to inspire, spread the word, and talent spot for the future.

If you’ve been involved with mentoring/volunteering, especially in relation to tech careers, please spare 5 minutes of your time to complete this survey to share your experience and best practice.

You can read more about the benefits of mentoring and the TechFuture ambassador programme here.