3 July, 2015

Developing and celebrating talent in our local community

“My name is Sophie and I work as Employee Engagement Manager here at M&S. We are delighted to have successfully completed our second School Mentoring Programme with Westminster Academy, which is local to our Head Office in London. 

I set up the mentoring programme as part of our diversity and inclusion strategy, with the aim of investing in the talent of the future. It was designed to create a mutual relationship that creates benefits for the students by giving them insight into business and encourage effective career planning, whilst also supporting our employees with their own personal development.

Over the last two years we have trained over 50 M&S employees to become mentors for students in years 10-13 at Westminster Academy. The school has 1175 students aged 11-18  and is extremely diverse with over 98% of students coming from ethnic minority groups and 88% of the students having English as an additional language. 

I chose to work with Westminster Academy as they are a local school in our office community, but also due to the rich diversity of the students. This programme has been an investment from M&S in developing young, diverse talent of the future, and it has been fantastic to see some of the older students come on work experience placements in our stores, and even secure part time jobs with us! 

Throughout the course of the programme, our mentors have had 1:1 mentoring sessions with their mentees every 4-6 weeks and covered topics such as resilience and tenacity, time management, employability skills, CV writing, brand image, and how to be brilliant. During the year we have also run a Myers Briggs Type Indicator session for the mentees to look at their personality types and how that might affect the way they approach relationships, work and their future plans.  

I was delighted to recently hold a celebration event for the programme at Westminster Academy, where a number of our mentors and their mentees shared their experience of the programme and talked about how valuable the mentoring relationships had been to them – demonstrating how this programme has been a mutually beneficial partnership. Some of our mentors have already committed to continuing mentoring their student next year, and others are waiting with baited breath to see their exam results later in the summer! 

At M&S we aim to ensure everyone is offered the opportunity to achieve their full potential, realising that our differences make us stronger, thus encouraging everyone to be whoever they want to be. Not only are we responsive to the needs of our employees and customers, we also take pride in the role we play in the community through our various employability programmes, such as Marks & Start.

This article originally appeared on the M&S Corporate Blog

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