Giving your time to help others can be incredibly rewarding. We speak with Arup Transport Planner and CIHT Young Professional of The Year 2021 Kate Lodge about her work as a mentor for the Social Mobility Foundation.
The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) is a charity which aims to make a practical improvement in social mobility for young people. The SMF was founded in order to provide opportunities, and networks of support for 16-17 year olds who are unable to get them from their schools or families. They work with high-achieving young people from low-income backgrounds from the age of 16 right through to graduation and into employment. Their Aspiring Professionals Programme offers mentoring, work placements, skills sessions and university & job application support to their students across 11 professional sectors.
Professional volunteer mentors, like me, provide guidance and support that SMF students need to access the universities and careers of their choice. Essentially, this involves providing help and advice on all aspects of the university application, including choosing a subject to study, which universities to apply to, the university application itself, and their personal statement. The majority of the guidance is provided over email, and there have also been online “meetup” events.
Professional volunteer mentors, like me, provide guidance and support that SMF students need to access the universities and careers of their choice.
I felt that, when applying to university, I was really lucky to have lots of people around me who could help me out and give me advice. This has been a great opportunity to share my (relatively!) recent experience of going through the process, and to provide some practical advice which could make a difference to someone’s application!
I’ve been really impressed by the passion and interest my mentee showed about their degree subject. The extra work, research, and projects they had done were really impressive – I definitely think it put my university application to shame!
Providing mentoring and work experience makes a huge contribution to young people's development, and gives a great insight into potential career paths.
As the SMF highlight in their 2020 Annual Review, employees in elite occupations who are from working-class backgrounds earn on average £6,400 less a year than their peers from wealthier backgrounds. Only 5% of students eligible for Free School Meals go on to study at the most selective universities. These statistics reflect the inequality that SMF is working to address. This trend starts from birth, with the gap widening throughout the school career and into employment
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it significant disruption to the education system, exacerbating the already considerable inequality in education across young learners. The gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers in July 2020 was 46% bigger than it was a year earlier – research at the start of the school year by the National Foundation for Educational Research showed that disadvantaged and BAME children had gone backwards compared with their better-off peers since March.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it significant disruption to the education system, exacerbating the already considerable inequality in education across young learners.
Alongside the EDI measures which are built into the recruitment process, and broader measures in talent development and staff retention, supporting charities like SMF is a great action to take. They provides an invaluable resource for young people. Providing mentoring and work experience make a huge contribution to their development, and give a great insight into potential career paths.
I would increase the urgency of it! At the end of the day, as an industry I think we are going in the right direction but it’s too easy to treat EDI as a tick-box exercise. It should be a central component in all projects, schemes, and in organisations themselves – constantly at the forefront of our minds.
EDI should be a central component in all projects, schemes, and in organisations themselves – constantly at the forefront of our minds.
Kate Lodge, Transport Planner at Arup, CIHT Young Professional of The Year 2021 and Vice Chair of the CIHT South West region.
The opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the CIHT or its members. Neither the CIHT nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.