Supporting access to higher education – why does intergenerational mentoring hold promise?
Research within the project recognises that Intergenerational mentors provide ongoing, supportive, mentoring relationships that are able to respond to a range of emergent, often challenging circumstances. They play a significant role in helping young people overcome their practical and emotional needs throughout an unfamiliar and at times daunting process. The following summarises some of the key dimensions to these relationships:
- To be effective mentoring needs to occur within a trusting, established relationship. This requires time and often demands weekly/at times fortnightly meetings. Mentors need to be able to commit half a day per week for preparation, travelling and meeting their mentee. Drawing from largely retired professionals the project recruits volunteers who have this time. They also have the interest, skills and commitment to support and nurture the development of young people.
- Intergenerational mentors are often equipped with a breadth of industry experience and well established professional and social networks. This enables mentors to introduce school pupils to new environments, resources and experiences essential to their understanding of different careers. This grounding and orientation is required when navigating towards competitive careers in particular.
- Equally crucial is mentors’ ability to recognise their mentees’ vulnerabilities and needs and help steer them towards new ideas and possibilities. Many mentors draw on their experience of supporting their own children or younger colleagues to help their mentees progress through this process with confidence. They have the ability to recognise, objectify and address the different challenges their mentees encounter as they progress towards higher education.
- Many relationships established at the start of the project remain in place. Our research suggests that the intergenerational dimension of mentoring holds promising avenues for supporting young people as they face transition from university into the professions and other forms of employment.
- This form of mentoring represents a considerable resource for pupils and cumulatively, for schools and local communities. The project infrastructure supports mentors in developing their mentor-mentee relationship and in helping mentors understand the current educational landscape. Research has shown the project to be an effective means of adding value to a range of current interventions in this field.