Supporting the next generation of Australians through online mentoring – why it’s important

This article is from Beacon Foundation Chief Executive Scott Harris. 

One of the things I love about the MyRoad mentoring program is the way many of the students really seem to grow throughout the sessions in confidence and enthusiasm. It’s so great to see.

It’s great because many of the students exposed to the program really need our help.

MyRoad is a free online mentoring program aimed at young women aged 16-19, who are in Years 10-12. Volunteer mentors from different businesses, occupations and backgrounds engage with young women in conversations about the world of work. The initiative is a partnership between Coca-Cola Australia and Beacon Foundation.

We target young women in this program because many think they’re at a disadvantage compared with boys when it comes to job opportunities.  In late 2017, Core Data undertook the MyRoad Careers Survey, involving 1000 girls and women aged 15 and above. Five hundred were still in school and 500 were no longer in school. Nearly one quarter of the students believed boys at their school would have more career opportunities than girls after leaving school. Of the non-students who said they had a mentor or role model, the overwhelming majority believed that those people were important in influencing their career path, or helped them take steps towards their desired career after leaving school. Of the non-students without a mentor or role model, 74% said they wished they had someone they looked up to.

We also know that for many schools, they want to do this work, they recognise the importance of careers education but they don’t always have the mechanism or the resourcing to be able to source their won industry mentors – and so Beacon Foundation is that conduit for many to see industry and schools really thriving together.

The Mitchell Institute’s report, ‘Connecting the worlds of learning and work’ (July 2018) agrees that schools face a number of barriers to engaging with industry partners, including a lack of time.[1]

Beacon Foundation’s online team does all the work to recruit, train and connect volunteer mentors to students. The ease of this volunteering opportunity isn’t lost on our mentors. Carl Harris from Deloitte has taken part in a number of MyRoad sessions, which take a maximum of two hours each, with no ongoing commitment.

“The ease of the program is one of the absolute beauties,” he says. “You do it from your desk, you don’t have to move, it’s online, it couldn’t be any easier – and therefore the impost on your time is so much less because it is just so simple, well structured, well supported.”

Another mentor, and MyRoad Ambassador, is Emma Isaacs, Founder & CEO of Business Chicks.

“It was great to support the girls as they opened up to me about the challenges the feel when thinking about life after school. This really can be an overwhelming time, especially for those students who live in small or regional communities and don’t have access to a lot of career options.”

Emma’s words are backed up by the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education (Discussion Paper, 2017) which stated that for these students, a “… mechanism that can be used to help build aspirations is mentorship programs.”

Another report, this one from the OECD, ‘Working it out: Career guidance and employer engagement’ (July, 2018) states that “an important purpose of career guidance is to provide young people from all backgrounds with relevant information and experiences to raise aspirations … this could help break intergenerational cycles of disadvantage.”

That report also says, “This engagement can be particularly effective in challenging negative assumptions about specific careers: who better than a woman working in engineering or construction to speak to young women about what it is really like to work in a profession where their gender is in a minority?”

And what does all this achieve?

Evidence shows that partnership activities like this “provide rich real world opportunities that spark students’ curiosity and open students to a range of new and emerging professions.”[2]

It’s another example of Beacon’s innovative, proactive nature in trying to deal with what is one of the country’s biggest issues in youth unemployment.

We want more young Australians to experience Beacon Foundation’s work. We’re aiming to have 2000 young women exposed to MyRoad this year. To do this, we need more people like you to become volunteer mentors.

As one said after her session recently, “supporting students to transition to the workplace and be work ready is such a rewarding experience. To inspire the future workforce through collaborative education and improve outcomes for young people across Australia is something we can all contribute to.”

Beacon Foundation is constantly recruiting new volunteer mentors. To start your contribution, head to


[1] Torri, K. (2018). ‘Connecting the worlds of learning and work’, Australia, Mitchell Institute at Victoria University

[2] Torri, K. (2018). ‘Connecting the worlds of learning and work’, Australia, Mitchell Institute at Victoria University