Student mentoring scheme at Reading wins top industry award07 November 2018
The University of Reading has been recognised as providing one of the top student mentoring schemes in the country.
The THRIVE Mentoring scheme, which every year sees hundreds of penultimate year students teamed up with University of Reading alumni to make progress with their career choice and employability, won the award for Research Informed Practice at this year's AGCAS Awards for Excellence, held in September.
AGCAS is the Association for Graduate Careers Advisory Services and is the international professional body for careers practitioners. The award recognises the generation of new knowledge and insight that has been, or could be, used to enhance the work of AGCAS member services.
THRIVE is a career mentoring scheme that pairs penultimate year students with a successful professional from their chosen career. Students spend a year with their mentor, gaining opportunities such as workplace visits; introductions to fellow professionals and industry experts; bespoke guidance on CVs and interview technique and the opportunity to learn about themselves and the careers that interest them.
The THRIVE scheme began in 2014, following a research project funded by Professor Orla Kennedy through the Teaching and Learning Development Fund. The research explored the concept of mentoring and how much value it could add to the student experience at the University of Reading.
This research was further extended when Career Mentoring Manager at the University of Reading, Tania Lyden, began a PhD in 2014 looking at the link between mentoring and social mobility. The research identified that students from low socio-economic backgrounds gain more from mentoring in areas such as self-belief, labour market knowledge and career clarity, and this provided strong justification for continuing the scheme.
In 2017, additional funding was provided by the Dean for Diversity to explore how career mentoring raises student aspirations. This research is ongoing until the end of the 2019 academic year, but it has already demonstrated that around 40% of mentees raised their aspirations as a result of being mentored.
The University's continued investment in mentoring has seen great success to date. This year, the scheme will enable 500 student-alumni partnerships, making it one of the largest fully-fledged mentoring schemes in UK higher education.
Close evaluation of the scheme has shown that those taking part in mentoring are more likely to secure jobs and to secure graduate level jobs after graduation. For example, in 2015/16 graduating Biological Sciences students who had been mentored were 15% more likely to be in graduate level work compared to all Biological Sciences students graduating that year.
Additionally, evaluation has shown student mentees making extensive gains in key areas: self-belief, exposure to graduate level work, networking propensity, labour market knowledge, the ability to communicate with professionals and clarity of career direction. For example, 2016/17 mentees on average said they were 47% more likely to engage in networking activities as a result of being mentored.
Dr Paddy Woodman, Student Services Director at the University of Reading, said: "It has been exciting to see how an initial short research project has evolved into a highly impactful initiative.
"THRIVE, and the underpinning research, has brought hugely positive outcomes for literally hundreds of student mentees whilst also making an impact on best practice in career mentoring in higher education nationally. It has extended our understanding of how career mentoring makes a quantifiable difference to employability and also enables social mobility in our undergraduates."
Food and Nutritional Sciences student, Grace, took part in the THRIVE Mentoring scheme in 2016/17. She is currently completing her final year of study before taking up her graduate job with Aldi - secured through her mentor:
"THRIVE was a fantastic opportunity. My mentor provided me with so much support when applying for placements. I managed to achieve a year-long placement at Aldi - my mentor helped me prepare for the interview and without that guidance I don't think I would have been successful. I am now returning to university with a graduate job offer and a years' worth of experience. Looking back, I am so happy I had the confidence to sign up to THRIVE. What a great scheme to have available at the University of Reading."
The research undertaken to inform the THRIVE Mentoring scheme has been extensively shared with other higher education institutions via industry conferences and networks to provide them with evidence-based examples of best practice.
Tania Lyden also recently established, and now chairs, the National AGCAS Career Mentoring Task Group, which supports career mentoring managers nationally and works to raise the profile of this valuable intervention.
With limited research undertaken into this area, the University has now established itself as a champion of career mentoring in higher education.