Since 2012 staff from international legal firm DLA Piper have been mentoring up and down the country on Mosaic’s Enterprise Challenge Competition. In the West Midlands 13 staff have supported teams of students at Small Heath School (link to school website) and Saltley School (link to school website).
“Our relationship with DLA Piper is extremely beneficial, staff from their Birmingham offices have not only mentored over 50 students taking part in our biggest ever Enterprise Challenge Competition,” explains Annalisa Lockett, Mosaic’s Area South Manager, “but the students have also learnt about different careers and prospects within the legal world.”
Celina Benedict, Corporate Responsibility Communications and Reporting Manager at DLA Piper explains the reason for choosing to work in partnership with Mosaic:
“DLA Piper is an international legal practice that advises businesses, institutions and governments around the world on a range of matters and transactions.
“Our participation in the Mosaic mentoring programme forms part of our wider global diversity initiative Break into Law, focused on removing barriers to the legal sector for talented, underrepresented young people. Break into Law begins with projects that improve access to education for young people, moving through initiatives like our work with Mosaic that provide students with a greater understanding of and experience in our industry.
“Ongoing mentoring support from our employees ensures the young people have positive working role models to help raise their confidence and aspirations, encouraging them to set goals for their future.”
Mosaic’s school programmes are a powerful tool through which young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are able to improve their confidence, self-efficacy and employability, through a powerful connection with professionals who volunteer their time.
Mosaic has been included in the 2014/15 Department of Education’s statutory guidance on careers advice, with the Apax-Mosaic Enterprise Challenge cited as exemplar practice for schools to adopt. This success is in no part due to the partnerships that Mosaic is able to cultivate between firms like DLA Piper and local schools.
Jacqui Williams, Business Studies teacher at Small Heath School comments:
“This is our second year of engaging with mentors from DLA Piper with a number of them having supported us last year; establishing a long term partnership with them makes things run so much more smoothly with the mentors already familiar with the school and the way we work.
“The mentors have provided a fresh approach to our students and the benefits of meeting and working with different people from a variety of backgrounds helps them see that with hard work it is possible to achieve. We are hoping to keep the partnership going beyond the Challenge and are now exploring the opportunity of visiting their offices.”
Muji Jaigirdar, Head of Business Studies at neighbouring Saltley School adds:
“We engage in the Enterprise Challenge Competition as it helps to nurture the potential business minds of our future generations and gives pupils the opportunity to think as company directors. They also learn to have a better understanding of the responsibilities that large companies have regarding their stakeholders, the local community in which they operate and the environment.
“Our DLA mentors are extremely energetic with an abundance of enthusiasm. They have helped our pupils to develop their negotiating and entrepreneurial skills whilst building their self esteem and confidence. They have a natural ability to engage and capture our students potential business minds.”
Why Get Involved?
Trainee solicitor Luke Peddar-Adams, who has been mentoring on the Challenge for the past two years and has supported the students at Saltley School said:
“I wanted to get involved in something which could help the local community and which was entirely separate from the work I do day to day in the office. Mosaic seemed a very worthwhile and structured programme for professionals to assist young people with their understanding of the business world and through which they could gain an insight into the people who work in different career areas.”
Sophia Khanna, also a trainee solicitor and Saltley mentor adds:
“Taking on the role of a Mosaic mentor appealed to me as an opportunity to help students who may not otherwise have exposure to people with a professional field, gain an insight into business and law. I was very much enthused by being able to help students gain confidence and the understanding that a career in business, law or any professional career is attainable for them.”
Fellow mentor and trainee solicitor Anita Basi added:
“I was motivated to become a Mosaic mentor because I thought it was a great initiative and a really good practical way for young people to experience how businesses operate in the real world, as well as a great way to boost their aspirations.”
First time Small Heath School mentor and client support officer Chris Green reflected on his reasons for mentoring:
“I had taken part as a student in a similar enterprise challenge and found it very rewarding. I wanted to help the students to have the same opportunity to learn from this as I did. I would definitely recommend being a Mosaic Enterprise Challenge mentor because it is genuinely rewarding.”
A Rewarding Experience
The Apax-Mosaic Enterprise Challenge is unique in that students benefit from being mentored by experienced business professionals who pass on their knowledge and skills about various aspects of business.
Laura Howard, trainee solicitor and mentor at Saltley School shares a particular rewarding experience:
“The students were especially engaged and interested in learning about business concepts and how it would help them make profit in the game. I was impressed at the level of their knowledge about the wider world of business and real-life examples of good (and bad) business.
“It is a joy to work with students who want to be there and learn as much as they can from you”.
DLA Piper associate and Small Heath mentor Jim McAvan adds:
“At one session I mentored four boisterous young men who were disrupting the rest of the class. By sitting down with them and talking to them about my own life and my experience of business I managed to get them interested in the idea of running their own businesses. We then (led totally by them) played the on line business game quietly and increasingly successfully for the rest of the session and the entire classroom was noticeably peaceful and productive.”
Boma Adoki, trainee solicitor and a member of the Saltley mentoring team reflected:
“It was particularly rewarding to see the girls in the group I was mentoring work through difficulties in the Business Game, take on board hints and tips given to them and end up getting an excellent result.”
Anita Basi explains further:
“It’s a great experience when a student is worried about giving you an answer – but after some encouragement they come out with a fantastic response to your question – you see their confidence rise and it is so rewarding to know you’ve made a little difference.”
A Challenging Experience
Rewarding experiences are often complemented by challenging moments with Chris Green reflecting:
“The most challenging aspect was engaging with all the children in the group at once – I found that whilst I had one person’s attention the others lost interest quickly! This came with practice though and I soon realised the importance of encouraging the group to work together as a team.”
Luke Peddar-Adams added:
“The most difficult thing I found was pitching the material of the sessions correctly so that it was applicable to the age group of the audience. In our job role we invariably speak to adults in other professional services but it is always important to tailor your advice and the manner you deliver it. The staff at Saltley School were excellent is assisting us to do this, making our sessions the most engaging they could be for the students.”
Being A Good Mentor
Positive aspirations are crucial for young people’s success: what people aspire to do as a child is strongly linked to what they end up doing later in life. Mentoring support from those who are already successful inspires and motivates young people and helps them to plan the steps necessary to succeed.
A good mentor is one who is “able to relate to the students and engage with the perspective of a teenager: the ability to take a business concept and apply it to their daily lives by using examples from popular culture,” explains Sophia Khanna, with Chris Green adding, “a good mentor is patient, encouraging and speaks to the children on their level without being patronising”.
The relationship between Mosaic and DLA Piper is ever expanding with plans currently being put into place for the Birmingham office to host a World of Work visit for secondary aged students.