Mentor program gives disadvantaged students a career boost

Mentor program gives disadvantaged students a career boost


Across Australia high school students are starting to think seriously about their future career. While some students may feel like the sky is the limit, for others from less privileged backgrounds it can be hard to picture their work life.

To help students from disadvantaged schools get practical exposure to a business environment, Nous Group is partnering with the Australian Business Community Network, a non-profit organisation that brings businesses and school students together.

As part of Nous’ membership of ABCN, this year about 50 Nous staff will participate in programs that help more than 80 disadvantaged school students to develop skills and confidence, and broaden their career pathways and aspirations.

ABCN’s programs build employability and enterprise skills for students including migrants, refugees and emerging women leaders. In 2019 Nous will undertake a pilot program that reflects our strengths and diversity, with our involvement likely to grow in future years.

“The program aligns beautifully with our reasons for being, particularly positive influence,” said Sally Pritchard, Chief People Officer at Nous Group. “It is a great fit – we get a chance to directly impact the lives of disadvantaged students, Nousers can build their understanding of the contexts of clients working with marginalised communities, and it offers great development opportunities in a different format.”

Nous’ involvement will further expand ABCN’s growing reach. In 2018, 6,690 students from nearly 200 schools received in-person mentoring from 40 businesses, and the program’s track record shows a correlation with increased school completion rates, confidence and greater aspirations for the future among students who take part.

As part of the program, Nousers will act as mentors to students, hosting them in some of our five Australian offices. The program will give the students an opportunity to come into the city, learn about professional careers and start to feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. For some students it will be their first time in the CBD or in a corporate office.

In Melbourne Nous will offer the Innovate program, which provides science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) mentoring for year 7 and 8 students, while in Sydney we will offer the InterACT program, which supports recently arrived high school-aged migrants whose first language is not English. In both cities we will also introduce Focus, which offers leadership mentoring for year 11 girls. In Perth we expect to offer Aurora, an Indigenous residential program.

“We are delighted that Nous has joined the ABCN network and we look forward to working with you all in 2019 and beyond to help level the playing field for students in need,” said Allegra Spender, CEO of ABCN.

ABCN recently reconnected with students who participated in its programs a decade ago and are now in their mid-20s. It found 89 per cent are fully engaged in education, employment or training, compared to a national average of 59-68 per cent for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. “I pinpoint the program as a moment that I thought about myself and what I could possibly do,” said Chris, a program participant now working as a web and graphic designer.

Nous mentors are expected to benefit by giving back to the students and by building their own skills, like empathy, communication and listening. Some mentors will also develop their facilitation skills. And we anticipate that employees will greatly enjoy the chance to mentor.

“This is an opportunity for grass-roots positive influence,” Sally, the Nous CPO, said. “If we can improve opportunities for disadvantaged students, then we change the lives of many.”