In your words, what is the Kids Co and its mentoring scheme all about?
It’s about transforming the career opportunities for the young people involved. Kids Company does brilliant work in supporting vulnerable young people through their childhood and teenage years, and then into further education. But when they enter the job market, those young people face another real struggle – they get caught up in that circular dilemma of not getting the job offer because they don’t have the experience, and not getting the experience because they have no previous experience! When they don’t have the contacts through family and friends to get that first break, it can seem like a hopeless exercise. The collaboration between Reiss, Grazia and Kids Company is unique and so exciting for a number of reasons. We all pull together to give each intern the training, the support, and the access to two of the most respected companies in the fashion and the media world and we help them make the most of that. We all know how daunting it can be starting out in a new career, so we aim to walk beside these young people as they get their big break, and as they start out in what we hope will be their very successful career.
What do you hope the mentors will gain from the scheme?
What I gain from the experience – and I suspect it's the same for most mentors – is a whole range of emotions and new insights:it’s always thought-provoking – you question your own awareness and judgements it’s often challenging – there are inevitable ups and downs in each work placement it’s sometimes shocking – to see how tough life can be for some young people who don’t have the support many of us take for granted and it’s humbling, fulfilling and inspiring as you build your relationship with each mentee and see them flourish
What do you hope the mentees will gain from the scheme?
A clear path towards their chosen career – for some that might be a full-time job based on the skills they acquire during the internship; for others it might be a place at University or college to get the qualifications they need to progress. During the scheme, it is important that each intern gains tangible skills and experiences so that they build up self-awareness and a good understanding of their personal strengths. Again this scheme is unique as the mentees not only learn from some of the most talented people in fashion retail within Reiss, but they also regularly meet journalists from Grazia and gain hands-on experience of all aspects of social media. We also help them with their CVs and interview techniques, to give them the best possible chance to achieve their goals. It’s no understatement to say this is their “chance of a lifetime” so it is vital that they get the most out of it.
What have previous mentees gone on to achieve?
Two mentees from last year’s collaboration with Reiss and Grazia went on to University – during their time at Reiss they both discovered where their talents lay and so we helped them with their UCAS applications, their portfolios, their interview techniques and then their finance applications. It was an enormous step for both of them, and it was made possible by this scheme. Others have used the experience to switch their aspirations from “job” to “career” and have started working their way up the ladder in other retail companies. This scheme has transformed those young people’s lives.
How can others get involved in mentoring at the Kids Co?
There are several opportunities to mentor at Kids Company – many volunteers act as mentors to children and young people who attend the street level centres, and there are also opportunities to work with young adults gaining work experience, where the skills and background of the mentor are matched to the relevant business sector. Kids Company provides training and support for all mentors, see Kidsco.org.uk for more details.
You can follow our interns’ progress here and at Grazia Daily, and look out for #KidsCoInterns updates on twitter.