In 2017 34% of students failed their Maths, English (or both), GCSE exams and at the same time the government told them that they had to retake GCSE in Maths & English until it was passed.

Employers then decided that they would also use the same standards and many (not all) but MANY employers will not interview anyone without a grade C (4) or above in these subjects. This is such a shame because they are missing out on a pool of wonderful, bright and in my opinion pretty amazing potential by allowing auto systems to ‘dump’ all applicants without the ‘right’ grades.

So why is a mentor to a 13 – 17 year old so important, ok have you ever sat with a 13 – 17 year that is not your own child (I’m sure you think they don’t listen to you anyway but other people’s children, they do listen to you, they do honestly) and asked them about their careers options, it’s actually quite sad.

Some are very focused and know exactly what they want to do but over half have either no idea what they want to do, or don’t believe they are bright enough.

During 2018 I sat with almost 1000 students, some for as little as 5 minutes, through various school events and support networks and I talked about the world of work and almost all of them, told me that without the grades, they have ‘no hope of a future’ NO HOPE.

So here is how a mentor can help, think about your own mentor (you probably have one had one in the past) how many times did they call bullshit on your excuses, your fears and your lack of confidence, how many times did you think you have NO HOPE and they showed you a chink of light that you could work towards, to reach your goals, your glory, your success…….. A lot I expect.

I want you to step up and call bullshit on these students excuses, fears and lack of confidence, tell them they have hope, tell them they have opportunities and talk to them about options that sit outside their grades and restrictions.

Visit your local youth club, school, education centre or if willing steal a few moments with your children and their friends. These students need to hear from someone who’s been there, who has changed jobs and changed careers and learned that pivoting is ok, they need to know that yes grades are important, yes they need to shut up, get off their phones and study but they also need to know that deep down, if it all goes wrong, they do HAVE HOPE, they do have choices and opportunities and most of all, they have someone who can turn their head a little to the left and point towards that chink of light, that leads them to success.

Many students have wonderful parents who nuture and guide then but there is a huge pocket of students between 13 & 17 who have no-one, no one who cares enough to tell them they have qualities and skills, or no one who knows how to tell them, through their own fears and barriers.

The number of students without family support is heart breaking and we can’t expect teachers to do it all.

I have learned so much about myself through these students and so much about our future leaders, I ask you to help and spend a few moments of your time to be the person that believes in these students, believes they can do it, be a mentor, one 10 minute conversation could change their future, how amazing is that.

Tina Leigh McDonald – Leadership Facilitator & Youth Career Coach – UK


  • Tina Leigh McDonald

    Leadership Trainer & Youth Career Coach

    Leadership Trainer & Youth Career Coach, supporting individuals & teams with personal development and leadership workshops, training & development. Coaching and mentoring in various positions with local alternative schools, the Princes Trust etc Working with students 15 + to get work ready and understand the potential they have for the future regardless of academic grades. Creating leaders and helping youths find a way into careers. A senior Manger since 2003 and coaching and training in the Learning & Development team as part of my management role since 2005. A car accident meant I had to give up my corporate role and started my own business training, coaching & mentoring. Returning to work with the local college providing apprenticeship programs for Team Leaders.