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Introduction

‘We have identified, attracted and nurtured talented, confident and motivated social work students to work with the full range of social work needs.’ NLSWTP Outcome one

The first aim of The North London Social Work Teaching Partnership (NLSWTP) highlights our aim to cultivate and nourish Social Work students.  We continue to strive to identify and nurture high quality students to enable them to be excellent social workers ready to support local communities, however, we also want to enable them to become their best selves in the workplace. With this further ambition in mind, the NLSWTP has developed this Mentoring Programme for Social Work students. 

This programme evolved out of learning from the Black Lives Matters movement in 2020. It has been observed that the career progression and opportunities offered to Black, Asian and other minority group  social workers are affected by structural disadvantages and unconscious biases in society. This mentoring scheme is aimed at overcoming these disadvantages, by focussing  on career development, networking and skills for success.

Mentoring is a relationship in which an experienced individual assists a less experienced person, by sharing their professional knowledge and experiences, while effectively utilising key skills and personal attributes, to better equip the mentee and allow them to achieve their goal. 

This programme does not change the teaching programme offered at Middlesex University. The main relationship(s) for students should always be their Practice Educator and Tutor first.  The role of a mentor is in addition to the core offer.

With the support of practitioners from around the partnership this programme will be piloted from September 2021 for the benefit of a few students on the BA, MA and PGDip Social Work pathways.  This programme is sowing into the long term goals and plans for these students and it is anticipated that the benefits of the programme will be realised in many years to come.

What is required of a mentor?

The role as a mentor will cover at least some of the following: 

  • Listening
  • Providing support and encouragement
  • Creating a confidential, discreet and empowering space for the mentee  to develop and thrive in their learning and practice.  
  • Asking questions to help develop your’s and the mentee’s understanding of a situation or problem
  • Offering different perspectives
  • Supporting mentees identify areas for development 
  • Offering guidance and advice in regards to qualifications
  • Providing insight into the mentees desired career as a social worker and potentially providing networks
  • Giving advice on career development
  • Creating a plan to help the mentee achieve the goals they set themselves

Benefits of mentoring

Both the Mentor and the Mentee can benefit from the mentoring sessions, below are a few of the common benefits of mentoring:

Common benefits for the mentor

  1. Improve listening and interpersonal skills
  2. Learn leadership skills
  3. Experience in professional relationship management.
  4. Reinforce existing knowledge (the best way to learn is to teach)
  5. Potential for networking
  6. Satisfaction of seeing the mentees develop.

Common benefits for the mentee

  1. Increased confidence.
  2. Support  to recognise gaps or unutilised skills and/or knowledge.
  3. Support to identify and achieve goals.
  4. Networking opportunities 
  5. Being encouraged and empowered in personal development.
  6. Developing and maintaining a broader perspective on career options and opportunities.

What is the mentoring process?

Introduction:

  • Explain the purpose of the mentoring relationship
  • Explain your role as a mentor 
  • Discuss what is expected from mentees and their role
  • Discuss the format of the meetings and how these will work
  • Identify overarching  objectives

Mentoring Sessions:

  • Identify specific objectives and set targets
  • Provide insight and feedback. 
  • Establish strengths and and areas for development  
  • Explore future options
  • Explore opportunities for mentees to gain relevant experience

Closing relationship:

  • Review progress on the agreed objectives
  • Reflection and review of the effectiveness of the relationship to both parties
  • Acknowledge and celebrate achievements

Who is the programme open to?

The Mentoring Programme will be open to Social Work students following the BA pathway (in year 2 and 3 only), MA and PGDip pathway.

The programme actively encourages applications from Black, Asian and other minority groups.  Students wishing to participate in the programme should express an interest in the mentoring scheme before September (BA students) and in the Autumn term (MA/PGDip students). 

How will it work?

  • BA students – In years 2 or 3 of study, the programme will seek to match student mentees, with mentors based on interests, experience and goals. Each matching is recommended to complete a cluster of up to eight mentoring sessions.  The programme suggests that these sessions are held two to three times per term. Sessions should  be approximately 90 minutes and should take place at a time and place (including online options) agreed between mentor and mentee.
  • MA/PGDip students – Students on these programmes study for 14 to 16 months on an accelerated route. These students should be offered a cluster of up to six mentoring sessions.  The programme recommends that they meet during the training period. Sessions should be 90 minutes and are expected to take place at a time and location agreed between mentor and mentee (including online options).

Who can be a Mentor - skills, knowledge and experience required

Being a mentor requires interpersonal and professional skills.

Training support and guidance will be coordinated by NLSWTP to enable mentors to fulfill this pivotal role.  As a starting position, all mentors should:

  • Be enthusiastic about supporting others
  • Be able to offer a range of perspectives and learning techniques
  • Be able to make suggestions informed by their own expertise and experience
  • Be an excellent practitioner, able to help the mentee to identify practice which meets professional requirements.

Mentors are asked to provide a brief CV. This is to ensure that the mentor has sufficient experience (I.e. at least 3 years post-qualifying) and that there is information available to match them with potential mentees (e.g. to match practice specialism where this is possible). They will need to be allowed to undertake the mentor role within their working hours, so require management permission. 

What support mechanisms are available for mentors?

Support is available for mentors who may be dealing with a complex situation with their mentee and are unsure of how to approach it.  There are a range of support mechanisms available:

  • Speak to your fellow mentor colleagues.  Regular group catch ups will be available to all mentors (mentor-mentee confidentiality should be maintained).
  • When the mentoring conversation appears to go towards counselling,  the mentee should be signposted to Middlesex University  Counselling Services who are available for additional support.