By John Cairns, Social Impact Advisor, Balfour Beatty


John Cairns, Social Impact Advisor, Balfour Beatty

John Cairns, Social Impact Advisor, Balfour Beatty


There are many excellent opportunities for employers to support young people in their journeys towards positive destinations beyond school.

One of the biggest impacts which employers can make to young people, who need a bit of extra to support to find their career pathways, is engaging and supporting through mentoring schemes.

When I reflect back to when I was 16 years old, I was certainly in the group where I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do beyond school.

Some of my friends had quite clear aspirations and ideas on what they thought they wanted to do, whether that was to be a plumber or study physics at university, but at 16 I wasn’t quite sure.

In hindsight, my thoughts on future careers were largely based on jobs which had been visible to me to that particular point in time.

My only experience of the world of work - up until that point in time - was a one-week work placement with the Scottish Mail on Sunday in their sports department. It was shadowing a journalist who is now quite famous within footballing circles called Graham Hunter.

The work placement was an extremely positive experience for me during my time within education, but at that point it was my only real reference to the world of work.

On reflection, I feel I would have benefited from engagement with mentoring from business to help me broaden my horizons and think about industries which hadn’t been visible to me through either friends, family or through school studies.

In addition to growing visibility of our industries, the added guidance which an employer can bring to a mentoring scheme is invaluable to young people that are in the senior phase of education.

I think everyone as they get older can reflect that when we were 16 or 17 years old it was a challenging time.

It’s an age when you are dealing with a number of changes and having to think about your next steps beyond school, an experience which has formed the majority of your life to date, is becoming more and more a reality.

Providing reassurance that others have similar experiences of uncertainty at different stages of all lives can have a positive impact on young people as they make key decisions about their next steps beyond school.

During the past four years, I have been delighted to be involved in mentoring young people within the Moray region as part of the local Career Ready programme.

During this time, it has been great to connect with young people from Buckie High School, Elgin Academy and Lossiemouth High School to learn more about their individual aspirations.

I’ve also been able to provide pupils with an opportunity to learn more about careers within Balfour Beatty and the wider construction industry.

The programme has been a great experience from a personal point of view as I feel that being part of the Career Ready programme has helped me develop my own personal management, mentoring and coaching approaches.

It has also been extremely rewarding to learn that young people that I have supported have progressed on to apprenticeships, further education at college or university.

In addition to continuing support with Career Ready, colleagues in Balfour Beatty are currently starting to mentor young people through the MCR Pathways mentoring programmes which are currently being rolled out across local authorities across Scotland.

The MCR pathways programme offers businesses an excellent opportunity to support and mentor young people that have care experiences or facing disadvantage and supports young people to engage with education, across a year or longer with long term mentoring which has a huge impact on the young people involved.

If you, or your business, would be interested in making a real difference to young people and learning more about mentoring opportunities within the North-east, please contact the Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) North East team via info@dyw.org.uk.