Professional Mentoring

Can mentoring give students a professional edge?

By Debbie Lightman, ORT UK

There’s nothing ‘sweet’ about being 16 when you’re swamped with homework and panicking about your exams. At this stage, you might have a vague ambition to one day become something medical, or maybe work in law or pursue engineering, but in reality, the world of work seems a million miles away. There’s still so many obstacles to navigate before you can reach your career goal – top grades in the appropriate subjects, a place on the right course and a coveted work experience placement or two.

It’s hard graft for years and then formal education comes to an abrupt end and it’s time to find a job.

ORT UK recognises that if students receive specially tailored careers advice, it can help smooth the path between school and the workplace. With the correct support, teenagers can become focussed and motivated to study, allowing them to fulfil their potential and follow the right career journey for them.

In 2009, ORT UK set out to revolutionise careers education in two London schools, with the launch of the ORT JUMP mentoring programme. Founder Julia Alberga paired 30 students with industry experts, each already working in the teenager’s chosen profession.

“Schools are not able to provide students with the opportunity to network with individuals established in a career that they may be interested in,” explains Julia. “Therefore they are daunted and unprepared for the next step – a problem which is often highlighted by employers. ORT JUMP provides students with the opportunity to bridge this gap, while equally allowing professionals a chance to give something back within their working day.”

Ten years on and the programme is now running across 11 London schools, with over 250 mentee and mentor partnerships. ORT JUMP has matched students in a variety of different industries from law, medicine, engineering and psychology to midwifery, film production, astronomy and marine biology! Together the pairs refine the students’ resume, explore the workplace and investigate pathways into the profession. The mentees complete two written assignments based on their new knowledge and prizes are awarded at an end of year graduation ceremony.

Both the mentees and mentors gain an enormous amount from participating.

Student Daniel Sefarty from Hasmonean High School says: “I am so grateful to ORT JUMP for connecting me with my mentor and for the amazing opportunities that are constantly being offered. I strongly maintain that this experience will change the path I wish to take for my future and it has certainly allowed me to ‘jump’ forwards in terms of career options; an opportunity many people are not given.”

While mentor Rose Franckeiss from law firm Mishcon De Reya LLP, explained: “The ORT JUMP programme has been an extremely rewarding experience and one I would recommend highly. I had the pleasure of mentoring a very bright, committed and engaged student. We explored lots of different career and work experience options within the legal industry. I was very proud when she contacted me to inform me she has been accepted to undertake a work placement with an excellent London law firm.”

Our mentors return year after year and frequently offer students further opportunities outside of the ORT JUMP framework, from work experience, to interview technique coaching, to support securing internships. We even have former mentees returning to the programme as mentors, keen to help students jump-start their careers, having experienced first-hand the educational value of mentoring, while remembering what it’s like to be 16.

You can find further information on ORT JUMP here, or by emailing anna.black@ortuk.org.