- South Western Railway has today announced its support for the Spark! CONNECT Mentoring scheme, which helps Hounslow young women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- The scheme will see female staff members mentor young women to help them build confidence and set goals for life after school.
- South Western Railway has also committed nearly £20,000 – two thirds of the project total cost - towards funding the scheme.
Female railway workers are set to mentor disadvantaged young women in Hounslow after South Western Railway (SWR) announced its support for the Spark! CONNECT Mentoring scheme.
The mentoring scheme, which is run in partnership with GSK, helps to prepare young women for life after school by boosting their confidence and enhancing their employability skills.
SWR has committed £19,750 towards funding two years of the programme, accounting for two thirds of the overall costs.
The latest participants recently completed the programme and attended a virtual graduation ceremony to mark their achievement. The next intake will start the programme in the autumn and work alongside SWR employees as well as volunteer mentors from other businesses.
Over the last six years, the Spark! CONNECT Mentoring scheme has been offering one-to-one sessions with women from local businesses and sixth form girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to raise their aspirations and help them set goals beyond school.
The scheme is an oversubscribed service which works closely with local schools. It consists of an initial three-hour training session, followed by six 90-minute one-to-one sessions, with ongoing support provided to all participants. It is always launched in partnership with a local business, helping provide insight into career pathways available within the community.
Veronika Krcalova, Customer and Communities Improvement Fund Manager, South Western Railway commented: “We are passionate about the communities we serve and proud to support this fantastic mentoring scheme.
“We are planning to expand our partnership later this year when our SWR colleagues will join the mentoring ranks and we’re grateful for the time they will commit to volunteer. We hope that their expertise and working experience will help inspire and grow the confidence of the next generation.”
Rachel McAdam, Head of Partnerships, Spark! commented: “We were delighted to receive funding from SWR, allowing us to work with 60 girls from West London schools and 60 mentors. This programme makes a huge difference to the girls involved, and also to the mentors. We’re really grateful for SWR’s support and look forward to welcoming SWR mentors to the next round, which will begin in September 2021.”
One of the participants on this year’s mentoring scheme said: “I enjoyed this so much as it helped me boost my confidence in order to speak to a group of people. Archna [volunteer mentor] gave me great advice and sent me amazing resources throughout the sessions. I also have learnt more about interviews and how to remain calm during presentations. Overall it was an amazing opportunity."
Another young woman on the scheme commented on her experience saying: “I like how I am free to ask any questions. I feel more confident with what I need to do to become successful in the future and it was great hearing my mentor’s journey through her career.”
SWR’s support forms part of a wider Customer and Communities Improvement Fund to help assist projects that have a community benefit or address an area of social need in the communities it serves.