Breaking Down the Barriers of Social Mobility – Why Mentoring Matters More than Ever

Mentoring has the power to change the life trajectory of a young person.  This was the premise of the first ever National Youth Mentoring Summit hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mentoring and the Diana Award – a charity set up to inspire positive change for young people through a mentoring program, an anti-bullying initiative and the Diana Award, a prestigious award which publicly recognises young people.

Throughout the day, we heard from a series of inspiring and brave mentees who have benefited from the gift of hope, time and love from a mentor.  We also met the mentors who are cheerleading the importance and power of mentorship, and we debated what the education, government, community and private sectors are doing to ensure robust mentoring programmes are put in place at critical points in young people’s lives.  Speaker’s put in the spotlight included Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO CBE, RT Hon Nick Gibb MP, Steve Chalke MBE and Torie Weiston-Serdan PH. D - all united in the belief that mentoring can change the course of young people’s lives.

Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations. In fact, young people who grow up without a positive role model in their lives are 67% less likely to gain employment when leaving education.  In comparison young adults who were at risk of falling off track but had a mentor were 55% more likely to enrol in college and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.

We know there is a huge issue with diversity of experience and background in the PR industry and this can, in part, be put down to the fact that young people don’t see it as a viable career option, either because they don’t know what it is or know anyone in it.  We used part of the day to network with charities, MPs and peers to see what, albeit small, part the industry can play in shedding light on what we see as a rewarding, varied career choice for young people.  However, we will not succeed unless the industry becomes more open-minded to its talent choices i.e. less wedded to the well-healed, red brick types, and look to not only support raw talent and but actively keep them in the industry.

It’s now recognised that purpose is no longer an optional extra if we are to prevent attrition, it’s a must have, must do, for any future-focused organisation that wants success with longevity, particularly amongst millennials.  A key discussion point was the role mentoring could play both internally and externally within organisations thus allowing individuals to feel like they’re giving something back.  Conscious of the moral compass of today’s millennials, Charlotte Kirby at Salesforce, highlighted that one of their softer and very popular benefits was a 7-day volunteering allowance.

To end, it’s worth echoing Prince Harry’s closing comments, “I’m struck by a few things today, most of which is the power of the invisible role model.  The person who may be sitting here today that doesn’t realise that someone looks up to them, that – for that person – you inspire them to be kinder, better, greater, more successful, more impactful.  Being a role model and mentor can help heal the wounds of your own past and create a better future for someone else.”

We must act!



Emily Buckland