Grant Turner - Athlete Mentor at Dame Kelly Holmes Trust

Trying to bridge the gap between education and employment is one of the biggest issues we see facing young people at Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.

At the Trust we work with young people from groups who need our help most – often they can be care leavers, homeless, young offenders or people living in isolated communities – and it is often young people from groups such as these who have the hardest task in navigating a route from school to either college, an apprenticeship or the world of work.

Working directly with young people facing disadvantage for the Trust, I see first-hand how complex the situation is and what a wide range of factors there are in every situation when a young person is making the difficult transition to adulthood. Many young people don’t have role models or people they can turn to for advice and others don’t have the kind of stable background that many of us take for granted that allows us time to think about and plan for the future.

Every young person I work with is different, however one consistent theme that seems to come across in the young people I see on our programmes is a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. It’s sad to see thousands of young people who have lost all belief and optimism that they will ever be able to lead a positive life.

Developing skills will always be important for this group. However, without focus, determination, confidence, resilience and motivation, young people will always struggle to find educational and career success, lead a healthy lifestyle or get involved in meaningful activities. As an Olympian, I used those attitudes to help me rise to the top of my sport and it’s so important we pass on these to the young people of today to help them go and achieve in life.

Enhancing these attitudes within young people is an issue that needs addressing so they are able to make good decisions. The young people we work with have great potential - it just needs to be fully realised by themselves, which will then empower them to make positive life choices.

I am a firm believer in the power of mentoring. Every day on the programmes that I run, I see the value of spending time with young people, of building a relationships with them and helping them develop the skills and attitudes they need in order to succeed.  Taking the time to hear what the issues are they are facing and helping to work through them and find solutions together is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a mentor on our programmes.

Seeing someone like Dale who has gone from attending our Get on Track programme, to setting up his own business and on to award winning success, is incredibly motivating and humbling for me and is proof to me that mentoring plays a huge part in helping young people to achieve.

Swimmers, judo players or athletes may not be the first people that spring to mind when thinking about mentors but someone in a suit and tie behind a desk may not be the easiest person for all young people to relate to. That’s why I fully support the #Unexpected Mentors campaign and would encourage as many people as possible to sign up to be a mentor to a young person. It’s an incredibly positive experience and I can guarantee that you are likely to get just as much out of the mentoring experience as the young person you are mentoring.

Grant competed for Great Britain in the 4×100 metre freestyle relay at the 2012 Summer Olympics and now works as an athlete mentor for Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.