United Utilities’ employees give student care leavers a helping hand

Getting that first step on the career ladder after graduating from university can be difficult enough even if you have your family around you offering support. For care leavers it can be even more challenging.

To give these students a helping hand, United Utilities is taking part in a mentoring scheme run by Salford University. The scheme matches students who are care leavers with professionals working in careers relevant to their qualification and career prospects.

United Utilities engineer, James Devereux, is currently mentoring Hady Naser, who is now in his final year studying civil engineering at Salford University.

James meets Hady every few weeks and keeps in regular touch over email. They discuss approaches to studying, current challenges and achievements and make preparations for Hady’s graduation and entry into the workplace.

James said: “I became involved in the Salford University mentoring scheme last year. I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to give support and advice to those who need it most.”

He admits that he’s also benefitted from the scheme. “Hady works part-time as a chef, and mentors and tutors other young people in care.  Seeing the dedication he has to his education and career is inspirational and has made me look at my own professional development,” added James.

The pilot scheme gives care leaver students the chance to be mentored by working professionals who can provide insight and expert advice into their area of work.

Hady commented: “Being a care leaver and attending university with no family member who has been down the same route, adds a load to the journey.

“Having Jamie as my mentor has helped me to explore how my personal qualities can be reflected in the professional workplace and improved my communication skills.

“Jamie has given me consistent feedback and motivation on my academic progress and helped me expand my network of contacts,” he added.

Hannah Wilson, mentoring co-ordinator at the University of Salford, said: “Students can benefit in many ways from our Industry Advice Scheme, not only to grow their professional network, but to build their confidence around what their chosen industry expects from a new graduate.

“It can be a minefield for some students navigating the next steps into employment, and having a mentor as a role model helps to support this transition period. Working collaboratively with United Utilities to continue this support will further enhance employability for those students who need it most.” she added.