Runshaw student Jay Ahmed was our first student mentor, paired with Tola Adessmowo, Head of Operations at Progress Housing, as part of the Reverse Mentoring pilot.

What is Reverse Mentoring?

Reverse mentoring is simply the opposite format of a traditional mentoring relationship, where typically a senior leader would mentor a junior colleague or student.

Instead, a reverse mentoring process recognises that there are skills gaps and opportunities to learn on both sides of a mentoring relationship and flipping the traditional format on its head can be very beneficial for both parties. Reverse mentoring also challenges the idea of mentoring being elitist, as it’s not about a senior person taking someone under their wing, but a formal relationship for the purpose of skill sharing and professional development.

You can read Jay and Tola’s full story below.

Jay Ahmed
Above – Tola and Jay outside Runshaw College

Jay and Tola have been mentoring each other on a monthly basis since the beginning of 2022. Jay, who is studying English Literature, Politics and Classical Civilisation here at Runshaw, was the first student to join and complete the Reverse Mentoring Scheme, which extended to a fantastic work placement opportunity over the summer break.

Tola was also our first employer mentor. Tola is Head of Operations at Progress Housing – an association which puts a lot of effort into helping people who can’t afford private housing.

The opportunity has helped Jay become more confident in her presenting skills, with tips on keeping an audience engaged and passing on information effectively.

For Jay, being mentored by Tola has taught her a lot about people in dire situations and how they can still form comforting communities as they help each other in the worst of times. The mentoring extended to a work placement opportunity, which also showed Jay another side to housing – the side where people aren’t in it for their benefit and how it is upheld surprisingly by lots of volunteers. But Jay also made a new role model, and more importantly a friend, Tola Adesemowo – a woman who has truly opened her eyes to the hardships faced in local communities and how there are great ways to help. 

Whilst on placement, Tola and Jay visited Orchard Grange, a housing scheme for independent living. They saw first hand the incredible work done to allow people to live in a brilliant community with coffee mornings and gardening spots. After her visit, Jay shadowed the receptionist at Sumner House where she was talked through the intricacies of applying for housing and how the current backlog of applications due to the housing crisis has affected the lives of people.

Jay’s experience also included a visit to the Community Shop at The Base in Leyland, where people pay £2.50 and pick out 10 food items for the week. Jay was humbled to see people truly creating a brilliant community, even more so considering the events throughout the week are run mainly by volunteers. Jay then shadowed with the Community Safety Officer – he explained the importance of having someone who can diffuse situations and allow tenants to live in peace.

Tola explained how she has really enjoyed working with and getting to know Jay. It has even helped her engage with her son – who is of a similar age, and also more importantly, understand more about the pressures our young people face now, it’s certainly different how Tola remembers it when she was a teenager at college.

Tola was really impressed by Jay’s great understanding of equality and real respect for people. Jay has also taught Tola the ins and outs of Tik Tok – which Tola thought was just full of clips of people dancing…! Tola now uses it to help with her work – from little tips on Excel (the Bain of her life) to tips on baking – it’s great’ Tola says.

Doing some of the shadowing with Jay has also re-emphasised for Tola, why she works at Progress – for some of the great work they do in communities helping people and also recognising the great people she works with and the real difference they make to people’s lives.

Tola claims at times she can be a creature of habit. In one of the sessions, Tola was talking to Jay about recruitment as they are struggling to recruit to some of their job roles. Jay and Tola had a conversation that really gave her some food for thought. They talked about jobs in housing and some of the job titles used at Progress. “They sound a bit formal” said Jay, “there’s a lot of Officer roles –this title may put people off, but they actually help people”. This really got Tola thinking more about how to attract people, particularly younger people into a career in housing, in Progress Housing – even. Tola hopes to follow this up with a focus group of colleagues in recruitment – and maybe can explore this further and meet with Jay and her fellow students to explore how to attract and retain younger people at Progress.

Tola concluded by stating, every time she met with Jay she went away having learned something new! For anyone that is thinking of getting involved in the Reverse mentoring scheme Tola said, “please do, you will learn so much – simply by just talking. Huge thanks to Jay and Runshaw College for giving me this opportunity”.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Reverse Mentoring Scheme or would like to take part, please e-mail Jane Vout on

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