All young people across the UK should grow up hopeful and confident in the belief that it’s worth striving for the job they dream of. But for young people growing up without a role model, this is often not the case. Diana Award CEO Tessy Ojo explains how mentoring has the power to change that.

4 July 2019

When our children are young, they are often posed a question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. It’s a big question to ask of a child, but they often respond with great optimism and ambition. They will tell you they want to be astronauts, professional athletes, or world leaders. At a young age their dreams for the future can be boundless and everything seems possible.

By the time they have reached the end of their school life, their dreams for the future are likely to have changed completely. For some, as they walk out of the school gates, they will be preparing to take the steps to make their aspirations a reality. But for many others, as they leave school they won’t carry with them any aspirations at all.

All young people across the UK should grow up hopeful and confident in the belief that it’s worth striving for the job they dream of. But hope and ambition is a luxury that not all young people can enjoy. For many young people growing up with disadvantaged backgrounds or from marginalised areas, their community norms dictate that achieving career success is something out of reach.

Mentors can help break down barriers for vulnerable young people.

Across the UK there are thousands of young people living within the boundaries of restricted social mobility. Findings show that the earning potential for a young person is most likely to reflect the earnings of their parents. In essence, this means that for those growing up in disadvantage, the odds suggest that they will remain disadvantaged throughout their life.

For those growing up with this reality, many are lacking something which is so important for employability and success – a role model. Role models are a source of inspiration, someone who we can aspire to be like. They show us what is possible and what can be achieved. For young people growing up without a role model, they are less likely to stay in education, and if they do, they can find it difficult to know the steps to take after so are less likely to get a job.

For vulnerable young people, mentoring is a tool to break down barriers toward career success and a vehicle for enhancing future prospects. Through mentoring we can give young people the skills, the knowledge and the experience to strive beyond education and take the first steps into the world of work. For a young person without a role model in their life, a mentor can be the voice that says “you can do it, and this is how” – words they may have never heard before.  

Diana Award Mentors work closely with young people to help them build skills for their future career. 

Mentors have the power to unlock doors for those without the key. Our cities are often seen as buzzing and vibrant centres of the business world. But we must question how accessible this world is to those growing up in disadvantage. When a mentor guides the path of a young person and shares their experience, they open up to them an endless world of possibilities for their future.

But who are the mentors that young people need? When we think of a mentor, we often think of someone who is at the height of their career, preparing to pass a baton to a successor. But a mentor does not have to be a CEO or senior leader. Everyone who has taken steps into employment has experience to share. No matter your age, your background or your profession, for a teenager without a clear vision for the future, a mentor can help them establish a goal and take those first steps toward unlocking their full potential. Across the country there is so much experience, knowledge and talent which, when put into mentoring, has the power to change the life trajectory of a young person.

HRH The Duke of Sussex recently met with Diana Award Mentees at the National Youth Mentoring Summit in London.

Princess Diana believed that young people have the power to change the world. But young people cannot change the world alone. Everyone needs guidance, everyone needs support, everyone needs a mentor.

When we all stand up for mentoring, we can uplift vulnerable young people and bridge the poverty gap which threatens to hold them back. We can inspire them, elevate them and watch them become assets in companies and businesses across the UK. We can shift the scale of social mobility for generations to come and unlock a resource which can transform society. That is the power of mentoring.



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