Student Job Series: Widening Participation Mentor!
Cover image from Widening Participation and Outreach Website (here)
As some of you may know if you’ve been searching through OurWarwick or checking in for a little while, I’ve published a series of blogs on student jobs at Warwick. I knew I wanted to take up a job whilst studying but found that I wasn’t sure where to begin, what to consider, and what a lot of work actually involved, which is why I’m really excited to be writing another post! So far all of my posts have been about work I have been directly involved with – and this role is a combination of both involvement and by proxy of many friends.
The Widening Participation team (or WP) team is made up of several longer-term programmes that recruit student mentors at Warwick, as well as holding shorter, one-off sessions, and summer schools for students in primary school up until sixth form. As the name may suggest, the primary aim of the team is to enable students to reach higher or further education – especially those who may come from backgrounds that are traditionally less likely to be represented at a university. To give you a few ideas what this may look like, think of a first-generation university student (where neither parent has attended university), or a student living or studying in an area that has traditionally low levels of uptake in higher/further education. These are only two examples of situations that WP may work with – but there is a huge variety and diversity in the reasons that someone may not want or think they can proceed to higher education (HE).
The WP mentor recruitment covers three programmes ran throughout the year. Before discussing these though, I thought I’d mention the other sessions and programmes designed for the age groups mentioned above! I did not realise the variety of opportunities available for students who WP reach out to until I worked on several of them throughout the three years I’ve had at Warwick, and I really think it is a valuable thing to know! You can find a handy diagram with information on it here, and I definitely recommend taking a quick look at it before reading further.
So, now that we’ve briefly touched on what WP is, we should probably cover the three roles that are available through the application this autumn.
1. Student Progression Team
Student Progression Team, or SPT for short, is a programme that takes place through term 2 of Warwick’s academic year. Designed for students in years 8 and 9, mentors tend to work regularly with small groups of students to focus on discussion around future choices, including higher education, alongside other sessions designed to raise confidence and ability of those taking part. Generally, this is a more localised programme focused on visiting schools around Coventry and Warwickshire.
2. UniTracks Mentor
In slight contrast to the SPT, UniTracks is a national outreach programme run by Warwick, for students of GCSE age (years 10-11, or ages 14-16). Within UniTracks there are opportunities for mentors to work with students in year 10 on projects including a film/history project or a business-focused one; while year 11 students attend a boot camp focused on GCSE revision in Easter. UniTracks has a focus on the development of skills that may interest future universities and employers, whilst also looking at grades and achievement for the students taking part.
3. Sutton Scholars
Sutton Scholars is a programme ran in conjunction with the Sutton Trust, focusing on Year 8 students across the West Midlands who have been identified as highly-able students. They become ‘Sutton Scholars’ for a two-year programme, that involves visits to campus and sessions run by academics and mentors alike. The students are encouraged to challenge themselves with the academic content on the course, with hopes that they may consider university as a further option later on in education.
What could these roles involve?
With the three programmes being wildly different, there are more specific details that can be found on the application webpage (see link later on!). It is key to note that all WP mentors are a part of the Warwick Welcome Service if they receive an offer for a position, which does open up the opportunity of further roles and work including one-day events and summer schools (as well as the expectation to work two open days). The mentor roles have varying levels of contact with students and schools depending on the program – the more localised courses, for example, include more regular visits to campus than the national scheme UniTracks. Speaking to a friend who worked with UniTracks last year (she loved it!), a communication system was set up where she could dedicate a set time to the students to help guide them and answer questions along with the project that they were organising, as her school was based in Cumbria.
Personally, I have found that working in various WP roles has been not only engaging but very enjoyable and worthwhile alongside studying! I really have enjoyed the variety of roles in both visiting schools and hosting students on campus. A highlight for me was at the end of my first year when I was able to work on one of the summer schools for students in year 12. It was a great way to see the opportunities that WP provides, and see the benefit and growth of participants through the week – something that I’ve been told by people is also evident across the programmes! In terms of growth not just for the students, but also for you, working with a group of young people is worthwhile for so many reasons. I found a marked improvement in confidence and leadership; which is something that I have felt carried into my university work and roles in other workplaces.
I hope this has given you a short insight into what working in the WP team might involve! There is huge variety in what mentors may do with their time in the programmes and smaller roles, but I have tried to summarise everything for you. There are definitely more great things about WP and opportunities for mentors, which you can read a little more about on the website. If you are interested in applying, the deadline is October 22nd and you can apply HERE as well as finding out more about what you could be doing and what benefits there are!
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon!