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Mentoring case study – a personal journey

Over the past year, a number of the IM Properties team have become mentors to a cohort of students from Birmingham City Council’s Building Birmingham Scholarship (BBS) scheme.

It’s been a hugely positive experience for everyone and aligns with IM Properties commitment to deliver both social and economic value to the communities surrounding its schemes, enhancing local employment and skills.

The BBS scheme provides university education, training opportunities and business mentoring for talented young people aged 16 to 24 who wish to pursue a career in construction and the built environment.

 We currently have six active mentorships and, working in partnership with our supply chain on our new Peddimore manufacturing and logistics scheme in Minworth, Birmingham, we’ve also helped to gain summer work placements and future work opportunities for the students.

Majella Lynch our project director is a mentor to Ismaeel, a second-year student studying Mechanical Engineering at Aston University and we caught up with them both to hear about their journey together and find out what advice they’d give to others considering entering onto the scheme.

Maj: Why did you volunteer to be a mentor?  I’m a mother of three children and have been in the industry for a long time and know how hard it is for young people to have to make major career choices. I felt being a mentor would enable me to give something back to an industry I’ve enjoyed and have gained so much from. By broadening a person’s outlook to understand and consider all aspects of a business, the easier it is for them to make an informed decision and most importantly match their skills to the right roles.

Ismaeel: How has having a mentor benefited you? I find it really helpful having someone to talk to in a similar industry, you get a useful insight and it’s opened up more career goals for me. I’ve discovered it’s always good to get an outside opinion on your learning as it broadens your horizons and helps you see things differently. Maj has supported me with my Uni work too and given advice on how to learn, like revision techniques, which no one ever teaches you.

Maj: What advice would you give to someone considering being a mentor? It feels a bit daunting at first, you have a huge sense of responsibility, and you’re thinking am I going to have enough time and what if they don’t talk to me or even like me? However as a mentor, you are sent on a course and are given guidance and once you get started, you think, actually, this is okay. We soon found common ground and discovered we shared a love of hot chocolate. Before the lockdown, we’d trial different coffee shops to see which one we thought did the best. My advice would be, just take it at your own speed, enjoy it and be natural.

Ismaeel: What qualities does Maj have that have particularly helped you? Whether we focus on Uni work or just have a general discussion, Maj is so laid back and easy to talk to, it’s hard not to hold a conversation with her. I admire how freely I can speak with her.

Maj: What has the experience taught you? To slow down and listen. In project management, you can be moving a million miles an hour and people often say, stop talking so fast! Having an hour each month, when you just sit, listen and chat has actually been really good for me.  Also to reflect on my own development. Being a female in construction can be challenging and I’ve had to find ways to manage people and workloads. Ismaeel has given me a fresh set of eyes on my industry which is always beneficial and often he sees things completely differently. It can challenge how and why you do things the way you do and also consolidate what you do know.

Ismaeel: What has been your standout moment as a mentee? Hearing about Maj’s own days in education, I realise we’re not as different as I first imagined.

Maj: What are your most memorable moments.  I’ve had a few proud mentor moments. I’ve been most impressed with Ismaeel’s head down approach and how he doesn’t let life get in his way. I find it particularly rewarding when he shares Uni work and emails me with projects he’s completed from windmills to electric bicycles, all from scratch! It’s a good feeling to know he values my opinion.

Ismaeel: Will you keep in touch after your three years? Yes, I would like to as I believe the mentoring process has really helped me.

Maj: Will you be sharing more hot chocolates? Yes definitely, we’ve got another year to go before he finishes, and I hope I can help find him some openings and then it would be good to meet up and hear how he’s getting on.

For further information on how to apply for the BBS scheme contact Joy Anibaba and Carl Bradley at bbs@birmingham.gov.uk