Mentors providing guidance in our community
29 January 2023
GFG Foundation mentors have shared their experience with their colleagues as the student programme continues to grow while providing guidance and support for young people in Whyalla.
At the recent GFG Foundation mentor introduction sessions in Whyalla, long-time mentors Annette Jacobs and Andrew Wheeler gave an insight into their own learnings and personal growth from their time in the programme.
The Student Programme is the primary focus of the GFG Foundation in Australia. It helps and supports young people in the communities in which GFG Alliance has a substantial presence.
It gives students an opportunity to learn outside the school constraints of timetable and curriculum by helping them understand the world of technology, engineering, maths and science and how it relates to life, business and industry in their own community.
Learning was a keynote for both Annette and Andrew as they spoke about their experiences in mentoring for the GFG Alliance initiative established by Executive Chairman Sanjeev Gupta and his family.
“Mentoring has taught me what the career pipeline looks like throughout the GFG Alliance group of companies,” said Annette who is a Principal Environment and Approvals Scientist with SIMEC Mining Iron Ore.
“It has also taught me how agile I need to be as a manager, how I need to constantly change my thinking and upskill in technology to put myself in a better place to effectively manage young people.”
Andrew recently moved from an engineering lead to a project controller role and credits the Foundation and the work he has does as a mentor for the past five years a driving factor in his career.
“When I started (with the Foundation) I didn’t have a lot of formal leadership skills but mentoring has allowed me to test myself in this area and in new environments,” Andrew said.
“I’ve found ways to adapt to working with different teams towards a common goal.
“I’ve gained new skills every year working with the students … it has definitely helped my own career and managing people.”
Community and connection with youth were other threads that wound their way through the conversation as Andrew and Annette addressed the prospective mentors at the introduction evening.
“I grew up in Whyalla so the Foundation has been a great opportunity for me to give something back to the community,” Andrew said.
“I know a lot of the students’ parents and families, so it is a real buzz to see them develop their skills, take advice on board and get an insight into the working world.
“Staying in touch with youth and the way they think has also been a real positive.”
This resonated with Annette as she told the story of a former Foundation student who is now making her way into the working world through her employment with a supermarket chain. This reinforced that the Foundation is about developing and preparing young people for whatever path their life takes.
“This girl still remembers my name to this day, says hello when I go into her supermarket and asks questions about the project we worked on during her time at the Foundation five years ago,” Annette said.
“That is the personal reward you get from being a mentor, establishing those interpersonal connections with students and seeing them go on to further growth and development.
“It blows my mind when I see these 15 and 16-year-old students thinking outside the box to solve problems and then getting up in front of friends and peers, with a big smile on their face, to present their findings … findings to real issues in our business that we can draw upon.”
The Foundation is in its fourth year in Whyalla and is being rolled out at other GFG Alliance sites in Australia.
Students wishing to be involved in the program should go to the GFG Foundation web page.
Main image: SIMEC Mining Principal Environment and Approvals Scientist Annette Jacobs supports a presentation to prospective GFG Foundation mentors in Whyalla.
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