Seven years ago Andrew Grainger, from Cardiff, Wales took an early severance package from his civil service job. With time on his hands, he decided he wanted to do something proactive; something interesting, worthwhile and challenging.
Recalling his experience mentoring for The Prince’s Trust some 15 years before, Andrew got back in touch and has since supported more than 50 young people in moving forward with their lives – an incredible and ‘very rewarding’ achievement.
Andrew says: “When I’d volunteered all those years ago, many of the unemployed young people I worked with had been through the education and care system and had felt a bit lost, like society had let them down. It was nice to be able to signpost them in the right direction and help them on their way to a better life, and that’s why I picked up the phone to see if I could help again.”
The Prince’s Trust tries to fit volunteer roles around each individual, the time they can spare, their experience and their interests. Andrew dedicates around five days a month to The Trust and spends them planning and delivering modules for Cardiff’s Explore Enterprise programme.
A week after the Enterprise programme has ended, Andrew hosts one-to-one sessions with participants to see whether they want to proceed with self employment. He then mentors one or two individuals from the group to help prepare them for the ‘Launch Panel’.
Andrew says: “The Launch Panel is like a nice Dragons’ Den. The young people have to present a strong business plan in order to be granted a loan from the group and to continue with Prince’s Trust support. My role is a bit like being a devil’s advocate really. I give them constructive criticism about their business plan and get them thinking about things from a different angle – how practical something is, how they can justify the figures they’re forecasting and so on. It is challenging, but I like that.”
Listening and showing a genuine interest in what they are doing can make all the difference to a young person, and for Andrew, that’s a big part of what being a good mentor means.
“Anyone can be a mentor really. You need to be logical and methodical, but you also need to be at ease with young people; really listen and understand them. Once, a young man who had come from a very troubled background, texted to thank me for the help I had given him – that was special. He said he felt like someone was finally interested in his wellbeing and future. That made me think,’ yes I’m doing something right’.”
Andrew is in his fourth consecutive year of volunteering for The Trust and continues to enjoy what he does and the rewards it gives him.