Mentor has had to act swiftly and effectively to continue supporting youth during the coronavirus pandemic. This has meant adapting some of the core programs, for example career inspiration, to a digital format to continue to empower youth even during social distancing.
Though personal interaction has always been a core ingredient in their programs, Mentor was already exploring ways to incorporate technology in their programs. “The notion of using a virtual mentor or pre-recorded material was only a peripheral part of our larger digital strategy until the pandemic pushed it to the forefront,” says Sara Revell Ford, Secretary General at Mentor International. “We are quickly finding out what will help us strengthen our effect as we adopt a wider variety of working methods.”
Mentor has now created a digitalized concept that can be shared far beyond the normal reach when visiting schools in person. At the same time, they have managed to keep the spontaneous interaction and connection between youth and mentor by hosting a real-time format that includes live presentations followed by live chats.
Mentor has placed a special focus on making sure the concept is personal and meaningful even in digital format. So far, it has attracted a good number of schools and volunteers. It has also been a positive learning curve for students. Technology, that was previously passed over, has become instrumental in bolstering professional, academic and private life. Out of necessity, Mentor programs are going through a digital transformation, and Mentor partners have been instrumental in driving this initiative forward.
Up to now, Mentor has booked eight schools and 24 volunteers. Each volunteer prepares a short presentation (approx. 15 minutes) about their background and life story. What led them to where they are today? What does an average day on the job look like? What do you need to think about in order reach your goals? The students are given a short description of the person and profession in advance, so they can prepare questions in turn. Importantly, presentations are accessible, entertaining, informative and, of course, interactive.
Initial feedback has been very promising. Everyone involved, including the Mentor staff, school staff, youths and volunteers, have learned a lot more about video technology. Volunteers have come from all walks of life including public services (military, health care, public transportation, police, social services) as well as the private sector (practical and theoretical professions). Mentor partners Zurich, SEB and Hemsö have taken particular interest in sending volunteers to these specific events. “We are delighted to be part of Mentor’s digital pilot and this innovative approach towards youth empowerment with a focus on career inspiration,” says David Haak, CEO of Zurich Nordic.
Mentor programs have always centred around the creation of strong relationships through person to person contact. As this is no longer an option, technology has become the most important tool to keep social relations active in a time when the need is not only large but rapidly increasing. Mentor is making sure that they provide not only continued but better support to youth during the pandemic.