Keri Marshall is a Learning Mentor at Cute Dog Consulting and has recently been shortlisted by The Guardian for its Small Business Rising Star Showcase. Cute Dog Consulting was set up in 2005 to create training solutions and support apprenticeships. In her spare time, Keri runs a food bank and a project for marginalised young people in Epsom.
“…The most rewarding part is seeing individuals grow in confidence and seeing them begin to believe that they can achieve their goals and dreams if they work hard…”
Firstly, Keri, congratulations on your shortlisting! Please can you tell us about your career to date?
I have been working in the third sector in community development for the past 15 years, delivering a wide range of projects to raise the quality of life for individuals and communities in areas of deprivation.
I have also worked for the County Council for many years delivering emotional and social development to young people in an informal setting through educational processes. I have served on a Housing Association management board for the past ten years and served five of those years as vice chair of the organisation
I also run a youth theatre for young people in the local area who could not afford to participate in the arts due to financial difficulties.
Most recently I have been working as a learning mentor with Cute Dog Consulting delivering business start-up and employability courses to those furthest away from the workplace.
What got you interested in social enterprise?
My heart has always been working in organisations whose aims and values are to tackle social issues, improve communities and increase individuals’ life chances; I have always had a strong interest in delivering opportunities for those people furthest from the workplace.
This led me to being introduced to Cute Dog Consulting, who specialise in delivering quality training to those who most need employment to gain work and stay in work. I love the ethos of their social enterprise model and the fact that although it is a business and therefore makes money, it really does invest back into those who are generally overlooked in business and provide them with real life changing opportunities.
What does your job at Cute Dog Consulting involve?
My role as a learning mentor is to inspire learners to believe in themselves and to support them to achieve their goals. I provide support, care and guidance in overcoming barriers to learning, encourage and promote participation in learning activities.
I always strive to enhance individuals’ learning, raise aspirations of learners and assist individuals to achieve their full potential. My role as a mentor is wide ranging and the variety of issues covered is vast.
It can include:
- Helping learners who are underperforming in their subjects on a one-to-one basis outside the learning environment;
- Implementing strategies and supporting learners in self-esteem and confidence-building activities;
- Listening to and helping learners resolve a range of issues that are creating barriers to learning;
- Drawing up agreed action plans with learners;
- Outlining the aims of the mentoring;
- Monitoring their progress;
- Monitoring attendance and punctuality of learners;
- Organising ‘offload’ sessions for learners. These are where they can talk about a particular issue in confidence, maintaining accurate records and preparing written reports and evaluations and providing follow on opportunities for learners upon completion of courses.
What sort of clients do you mentor?
I work with a very diverse range of learners and generally most of them are experiencing multiple disadvantages. Most have been out of the workplace for many years and many have never previously succeeded in education.
Learners can often be single parents, those experiencing health difficulties, those experiencing addictions and older learners who have not been in education for many years.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is working with clients who have very complex lives and being able to dedicate the time needed to everyone who needs it. When working with a large group of learners this can be very challenging.
…And the most rewarding?
The most rewarding part is seeing individuals grow in confidence and seeing them begin to believe that they can achieve their goals and dreams if they work hard. When I work with clients who have never succeeded in learning before and they achieve their qualifications and go on to change their lives it makes it all worthwhile.
Your job sounds busy, but you also run a food bank and a project to support marginalised young people in your spare time. Please could you tell us about these?
I will always lead a very busy life as that is the person that I am and doing jobs that make a difference to peoples life’s is what inspires me. Together with a group of amazing, dedicated people I set up a food bank in 2012 in my local area to provide three days of nutritionally balanced food to those experiencing a crisis situation.
To date we have provided food, toiletries and baby products to just under 3000 people. Surrey is often perceived as a very affluent area and therefore when people experience crisis in their life it can be even more challenging, so we try to do just a little bit to help out in these difficult times.
Working with young people to improve their life chances will always be my first passion. I enjoy working to inspire the next generation of budding entrepreneurs and inspiring them to believe that their goals are possible to achieve no matter what background they have come from.
I have worked delivering projects and activities to young people for the past 15 years living in areas of deprivation and I love the fact that every day and every young person is different.
What is next for you?
At the moment my goal is to see business start-up courses and employability programmes available to as many people who are furthest away from the work place as possible in order to allow them to change their lives.
In the longer term I would like to retrain to teach young people experiencing challenges with succeeding in education.