Professional mentoring, off to a flying start

Issue date: 16 February 2009

University of the West of England Students on the Computer Systems Integration degree at the University of the West of England are benefiting from professional mentoring by UWE graduates.

Dr Rob Williams leads the course at the Bristol Institute of Technology, he explains the rationale behind the scheme, “I keep in touch with many graduates and thought it would be a good idea to make use of their professional expertise to help current students with their final year project work. The scheme started with 50 mentors signed up almost as soon as the e-mail announcement was released, which speaks volumes for the graduates' regard for the course.

“Professional mentors will offer advice and critical comment on the students' project work. Several volunteers are actually working overseas, including the USA, Canada and New Zealand but as mentoring can be carried out effectively over the Internet this has meant that students can select mentors from a wide range of professional bases Our students already spend a year out on placement but we want to give them the edge when it comes to fulfilling employers' expectations. In a fast changing field such as technical computing, students need to learn how to seek and accept advice from others and to incorporate it usefully into their own work.”

Mentor Peter Griffin from MPC Data said, “I decided to get involved with the mentoring scheme to 'give something back' to the course which has helped me so much in learning the technical skills required by industry and helping me to get an industrial placement which ultimately led onto a full time job after graduating.

It also helps to maintain the strong relationship Rob has built up with MPC Data over the years which been a good source of highly technically skilled placement students many of whom have gone on to become full time employees, myself included. Rob has also done a grand job matching up students technical projects with the technical interests of the mentors.”

Student mentee, Michael Nellis said, “The Professional mentoring scheme has helped with my project by providing me with someone to talk to with a deeper understanding of the problems faced, thanks to his professional and technical experience. My mentor has given me a new viewpoint, which has helped spot possible points that can be improved, and thus ultimately improving the quality of the work.”

In conclusion, Dr Rob Williams said, “Because we teach a very demanding subject we want to provide as much support to our students as we can. Then, armed with the right technical skills and an up-to-date view of recruitment opportunities, they will find it easier to secure a satisfying job. In the fast changing world of Computer Systems, employers are crying out for graduates with the right technical skills. So we decided that as we have maintained such excellent links with local firms, many of whom already offer us placement opportunities and graduate positions, it would be useful for students to find out if their design and coding skills have reached the correct level for industry as well as for the university.”

Professor Steve West, UWE Vice-Chancellor, is delighted at the success of the scheme which he says exemplifies one of UWE's key strengths in partnership working, “The professional mentoring scheme lead by Dr Rob Williams, is proving to be a great hit with students, providing them with excellent backing from the professionals they could be working alongside in future years. It is also gratifying to note the high regard that UWE, and in this case the students from the former CRTS course, is held by graduates who are willing to support current students so readily.”


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