Finito mentor Andy Inman explains the birth of new arm of the Finito Bursary scheme
Those who believe in mentoring tend to have a personal story about how they came to understand its importance. That’s certainly the case for me. Born to a loving middle-class family on the island of Jersey, I suspected even then that I was lucky. I just didn’t know how much.
But even these fortunate circumstances weren’t enough to make success certain. When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a helicopter pilot in the army. But there was a problem – and it lay in me. At first, I didn’t find the resolve within myself to work as hard as I should have done at school to make that a reality. I left school at 16, and had to face a harsh truth: my dream was unlikely to be realised.
It was at this point that a family friend took it upon himself to open my eyes to what is possible with direction and application. His mentoring made all the difference to the outcome of my future working career – better than that, his example stuck in my mind.
Looking back over the 37 years that have passed since then, I am incredibly fortunate to have achieved my career dreams and accomplished more professionally than I would have ever thought possible. I couldn’t have done it without mentoring. It’s this experience that has brought me to mentoring in general – and to Finito in particular.
The mentoring and networking we deliver within Finito is tailored to each mentee. What we aim to do is unlock the talent and potential of each person. That means that there are as many different outcomes as there are Finito candidates. Everyone’s different, and as a business, we love celebrating that uniqueness which lies in each of us.
However, there is one common thread for every introduction: all our mentees come from families who care enough to buy into the Finito service. That fact alone got me thinking. Over the course of my first year or two with Finito, I began to see that our work could produce a life-changing difference to talented young people who come from families who can’t afford our fees. I pitched the idea to Ronel Lehmann, the company’s founder and CEO: thankfully, he saw the idea as a credible realistic project. He invited me to make it happen.
Sometimes you have to be careful of what you wish for. As an ex-military pilot now running an international defence training company I found myself in a totally new environment. On the one hand, I had the task of finding talented young people from underprivileged backgrounds, who would be interested in joining a fledgling Bursary program. On the other, I had to drum up interest from fellow mentors who would be willing to volunteer some of their time pro bono to a scheme which had no financial backing – yet.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. During my research, the Landau Forte Academy in Derby came onto my radar. The school immediately caught my attention on account of its holistic approach to education, and its academic success in one of the most deprived areas of the country. Significant sums of money donated by Martin Landau and Sir Rocco Forte had produced an educational environment across a number of campuses where young people were being enabled to reach their potential.
I sensed it would be a fit. Finito could take some of the most deserving individuals at the Landau Forte Academy, and work with them as they left their school environment and moved to the next stage of their lives. Whether students might wish to attend university, or secure an apprenticeship or immediate employment, we’d be able to help.
Fortunately, the senior management team at Landau Forte saw the benefits and worked with me to identify our first students. These were then matched with Finito mentors who had offered their time for free to help me start the program.
Six months on and how’s it going? Well, it’s been incredibly exciting. Our students so far have come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. We’ve also had some notable early successes which motivate me – and everyone at Finito – to expand the program.
When I speak to Sarah Findlay-Cobb, the CEO of the Landau Forte Charitable Trust, I am keen to get her feedback as to how much it’s helped the school. I am touched by how effusive she is: “I can’t get over what an amazing opportunity this is for our students,” she says. “We’ve had some huge successes from people who needed that extra push. It’s made a significant difference to their life chances.”
The successes Sarah mentions are a promise of what’s to come. For instance, one of our mentees has been given significant time and support to move to university and happily settle there. That outcome might sound reasonably normal to most of us but for a number of reasons it was thought unlikely to happen before that young person joined the program.
Another early success involved support through advice and coaching for a young person who had been offered a fantastic apprenticeship, but in a location that the school thought the mentee would decide not to relocate to – again, for several complicated reasons. In that instance, our mentor worked hard to support the individual, giving them contacts and advice as well as talking to agencies on their behalf in the new city.
Again this may sound like no big deal, but the young mentee would have had no help or guidance in making the apprenticeship a reality without the help of the Bursary. In the event of it, the school was both delighted and amazed that the young person in question had decided to take up the position. Findlay-Cobb says: “It was one of those students where we thought it could have gone either way. He’s been utterly changed – and hugely for the better.”
Another Landau Forte Academy mentee, Yassen Ahmad, talks to me about his own quest to be a software engineer, and how Finito has helped with that. He explains what the experience has meant to him: “For me, Finito mentoring has meant a lot more to me than just becoming employable. It is also about both growing and developing myself beyond the confines of my limited perception of the world.”
Had Yassen had prior experience of mentoring? “Previously, before I was being mentored, I had regimented myself to believe that university was the only viable pathway for my chosen career. As a naive young adult there’s only so much experience and knowledge that I have about careers and the world of work.”
So what did Yassen learn from his mentoring? “Flexibility is one of the major lessons I have gained from my sessions. My mentor shone a light from a different perspective and guided me to discover a plethora of alternative routes that I had previously isolated, such as apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships or even entering directly into the workforce with the right company.”
And does Yassen feel ready for the world of work? “The Finito mentors have also allowed me to understand how I can become more of an asset and of value to an employer, knowing what skills they look for within their company. I think these prospects have drastically helped me hone my current skills so I can become a more appealing applicant as well. I firmly believe I would not have so easily understood all these things on my own.”
Yassen’s is a moving story, not least because there are too many young people like him who don’t have access to the sort of opportunities we’re providing – and which the company now aims to expand. Yassen explains: “Coming from a background where finance has been difficult, I am very thankful for the monetary grant provided to me. It has aided in breaking down unnecessary financial barriers that I came across in my journey and exploration of my career. Allowing me to access online courses, books and other resources that were previously restricted to me, these opportunities have been able to maximise my current potential and performance like no other.”
Findlay-Cobb adds: “When you break that cycle of poverty you don’t just help that one person: it affects other family members, and it can last generations.” Yassen seconds that: “This is merely the start of my career journey, the benefits of the long-term investment with my mentor will only grow as time passes. That for me is why I love the mentoring with Finito.”
The notion that mentoring is a gift which grows in time is both an exciting thought intellectually, but also a profound motivation to those of us at Finito who now want to use the coming years to help break that poverty cycle for as many young people as possible.
Our support of Yassen and others shall continue well beyond the present moment. As these young people develop in the marketplace post-education, the Finito network will come into action. We shall introduce all our mentees to key figures in the industry and work arenas in which they seek employment. We shall not rest until they are fulfilled. We are expert at securing work placements, internships and helping prepare for interviews. All candidates who come to Finito have an advantage – that is why the business is successful. But imagine a world where that privilege were extended to those who can’t afford it.
The Bursary is good for the mentees. It also happens to be the case that it’s good for the mentors as well. In fact, one unexpected side effect of the Bursary is to have stretched the Finito mentors, in each instance developing a stronger and more effective mentor for the organisation in general. Most of the Finito mentors are senior individuals in their own profession, from senior bankers and lawyers to high-flying media execs. While experienced in their professional worlds, all our Bursary mentors have reported that some of the social and welfare challenges that they have faced in working with our young Bursary mentees have taken them into new areas and broadened their perspective.
So as with so many good ideas, there turn out to be many hidden benefits to this. That’s why Finito has been seeking Bursary donations – and excitingly, some household names have already come forward to help.
One of those is John Griffin, the founder of Addison Lee, and Chairman of Finito Education who says: “In my long career mentoring young people, it fills me with enormous pride that I created employment for thousands of people at Addison Lee. Finito continues this important work and I am delighted to be a part of their team.”
Meanwhile, the businessman and philanthropist Mohamed Amersi tell us: “After completing their education, many students still flounder trying to secure a meaningful career. As an entrepreneur, philanthropist and thought leader, I have always felt a burden of responsibility to help champion and inspire the next generation. We have long supported young people to increase their employment chances across the world and at this time, we are proud to support Finito for the outstanding work it does in facilitating opportunities for young people.”
Other donors include Dr Selva Pankaj, the CEO of the Regent Group, who hails the scheme as being particularly relevant in the “current volatile landscape of the pandemic”. The famed surgeon Professor Nadey Hakim tells us: “Finito really makes things happen and it is incumbent on me to support you and to encourage others to follow my lead.” Simon Blagden CBE, the Chair of Larkspur International Ltd., adds: “I served the Government’s advisory panel reviewing the future of technical education. During the two year process we met with hundreds of young people all over the country. I am delighted to support the work of Finito. The valuable work which you do strongly resonates with both students and their parents.”
These are marvellous endorsements, and I am confident that there will be many more in the years ahead. It’s almost enough to make me pleased that I needed mentoring at the age of 16. At any rate, our goal now is to move forwards and have as many young people like Yassen benefiting from our services as possible.
For a roll call of honour on those who have donated to the scheme, go to: https://www.finito.org.uk/contact/finito-bursary/