The future of mentoring at The Access Project: Building skills for employability

At The Access Project, ambition fuels everything we do. Our goal is to grow, reaching more young people nationwide and helping them achieve social mobility by attending top universities.

Yet, recent data reminds us of the persistent access gap, with disparities in higher education participation among under-resourced groups. According to NEON, there is a 50% difference in participation in HE between certain parts of the country for students in receipt of Free School Meals. That’s why our focus is on serving areas where our impact can be felt the most.

Mentoring for the future

Starting from one school in North London in 2008, we’ve since expanded to operate in six regions. As we continue to grow, we’re also evolving our mentoring approach to meet the changing needs of our students.

One big change is our commitment to inclusive mentoring. We understand that students’ needs vary, so we’ve teamed up with diversity and inclusion experts to provide mandatory training for all mentors. This training covers Anti-Racist and Culturally Responsive mentoring, ensuring our mentors are equipped to support students from diverse backgrounds. We’ve also introduced specialised training to assist students with specific Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, ensuring that no one gets left behind.

Levelling up soft skills: Mentoring for employability

“There is evidence of an association between soft skills and intergenerational social mobility […] Our research found a correlation between higher levels of some soft skills and upward social mobility” (Donnelly et al. 2019).

We’re also focusing on developing support for skills and employability. We know that developing essential skills like communication and organisation can open doors to academic success and better job opportunities (EEF 2021; Gedikoglu 2021; Hoole 2023). Unfortunately, not all students have equal access to these opportunities. That’s why we’re introducing a new programme with partners focused on developing essential skills.

This programme is all about getting students ready for university and the world of work by honing their communication, organisation, problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration skills. Our corporate volunteers bring real-world expertise, showing students how these skills are applied in professional settings. We’re about expanding horizons and building networks that can help students succeed in university and beyond.

Through inclusive mentoring and skill-building initiatives, we’re empowering young people to unlock their potential and break down barriers to success. Together, we’re building a brighter future, one student at a time.

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Donnelly, M, Lazetic, P, Sandoval-Hernández, A, Kameshwara, KK & Whewall, S 2019, An Unequal Playing Field: Extra-Curricular Activities, Soft Skills and Social Mobility. Social Mobility Commission. Accessible online at:

EEF. 2021. Social and Emotional Learning. Education Endowment Foundation. Accessible online at:

Gedikoglu, M. 2021. Social and Emotional Learning. Education Policy Institute. Accessible online at:

Hoole, Gavin. 2023. Soft Skills for Youth Development. FE News. Accessible online at:,people%20(DFE%2C%202020)

National Careers Service. How to Develop Your Soft Skills. Accessible online at

Swain, R. 2023. What skills do employers want? Prospects. Accessible online at: