Our dedicated Career Progression Mentors provide person-centred support to all project participants before and during their learning, offering tips, advice and a chance for some much-valued self-reflection. Our mentors are independent of the guided learning, meaning they can tailor their support to suit the needs of the individual participant, beyond learning.
Mentoring can provide learners with advice and guidance throughout their journey, from deciding which course to do, to helping them to overcome challenges whilst undertaking learning, and it can also open up conversations about the next steps for career progression, better pay and job satisfaction.
Our participants say that having the support of a mentor is a much-valued extra resource that is unique to the Developing Skills project, providing them with strategies for dealing with obstacles and confidence to progress further in their career.
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Gary has an extensive background in supporting adults with learning disabilities. From starting as a volunteer for Mencap, he has worked in a variety of roles including residential and day care, as well as developing projects such as a drop-in café in Felixstowe for adults with learning disabilities.
One of Gary’s many hidden talents is an extensive knowledge of the layout of the streets of London, as he has also worked as a black cab driver.
Gary says that one of the things he enjoys most about his job as a mentor is that he is supporting people to improve their lives. He knows that when he supports a learner through a course, he is helping to improve their confidence. His aim is to help people feel valued about their job in health or social care – it is such an important profession that makes a positive difference to other people’s lives.
“People are my business – it’s all about helping the people we’re working for!” says Gary.
Katrina has had a varied career in health and social care: her very first job was being a support worker for a young teenager with cerebral palsy, helping her with hydrotherapy and personal care, as well as crafts and cookery.
Katrina has also worked as an Independence and Wellbeing Practitioner for Suffolk County Council, helping people who may be vulnerable or have disabilities to remain independent.
Katrina studied for her degree in Psychology and Sociology when she was aged 26. She achieved her degree whilst caring for her young children and holding down a busy waitressing job, so she understands how hard it can be to fit studying into someone’s life.
In her current role, she says that the first call with a new participant is always about finding out about the individual and what they are hoping to get out of their training. Katrina says that what she enjoys most is seeing how the role helps to develop a learner’s plans for their career path and future development.
Sian is a Senior Career Progression Mentor on the Developing Skills project. She first got into the social care sector at the early age of 14, when she volunteered at an evening club for people with learning disabilities.
Sian has spent much of her career working as an Assessor and Internal Quality Assurance Assessor for health and social care and employability training companies. This involved signing off and supporting students’ qualifications such as NVQs, diplomas, and apprenticeships in health and social care.
Sian’s job has meant she has travelled for work in many parts of England including Birmingham, Hull, Nottingham, and Southampton.
Sian says that what she enjoys most about her job is the ability to support people in a nurturing way – something that used to be common in the sector but has been lost over time. She says that carers often think that they cannot complete a qualification, but with support and encouragement they can achieve it: indeed Sian herself thought that she was ‘just a carer’ until her assessor helped her to see that she could achieve her first NVQ and she has been able to develop her qualifications all the way through to a Level 6 award in Advice & Guidance.
Sian and the whole team of Mentors help participants to do just that – and Sian says that she loves seeing people grow in confidence and learn to believe in themselves.
Mark joined the Developing Skills project as a Career Progression Mentor after working in Conveyancing and then completing a Master’s Degree in Social Policy.
Mark says that something he particularly enjoys about working on the project is that everyone is ‘on the same page’ and all working to support our participants to progress. He finds it fulfilling to work with people who may initially be full of self-doubt, as he sees their doubts disappear during the Mentoring process, which then opens their minds up to take on further learning.
By working in Social Care, Mark is following a family tradition as his mum and grandmother both worked in the sector as well.
Mark says that his mentoring is tailored to suit the individual – it is what they want it to be: he can be a sounding board if that’s all someone wants, or there to provide more guided support if needed.
Ceri’s background was originally working for recruitment agencies, where she provided pastoral care to candidates and clients. She then used this experience to support nurses from overseas who were joining the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital – until the pandemic struck.
Since April 2021 Ceri has worked as one of our Career Progression Mentors, and says it is a fantastic job because she is able to spend a good amount of time supporting each of her mentees – it doesn’t feel like a conveyor belt-approach. Instead, it is giving them some protected time to really think through what they are hoping to achieve. Many of her mentees start with low confidence or low self-esteem, and Ceri says that she can see the mentoring support gives them a real lift or personal boost, as it empowers them and opens minds to new opportunities.
She particularly enjoys supporting those learners who are doing the Level 4 Aspiring Managers units, as it is a bespoke course that gives them a real taster of what a management role would entail.
Ceri says she loves her job and feels blessed to have found it.
Ali first discovered Norwich when she studied for her Occupational Therapy Degree at the University of East Anglia. She fell in love with the city and has since settled in Norfolk. Ali has worked for several charities locally, including working with those who were homeless and victims of domestic abuse. Her work with those who were homeless was all about building their confidence, using action plans, support groups and more, to help get them nearer to being work-ready.
Ali joined the Developing Skills project first as a Career Progression Mentor and more recently she moved into a Senior Mentor role. Ali says that what she loves about the job is the mix of still being able to actively mentor participants, as well as supporting colleagues.
In her time mentoring, Ali can see that she is helping to build people’s confidence, just as she did with individuals in a previous role. Recently, she mentored someone who was struggling to speak up in multi-disciplinary meetings, so Ali provided the learner with tools and techniques including affirmations and a gratitude log. The learner was pleased that they were investing in themselves, and their confidence grew both at work and within their personal life.