Microsoft Australia has been collaborating with the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) over the past three years to provide mentorship to students who live in areas of lower socioeconomic conditions.

The partnership enables Microsoft employees to participate in a series of mentoring programmes offered by ABCN, with the main purpose of improving educational opportunities for students and schools that are most in need. Through the mentoring programmes, ABCN strives to address issues such as inadequate literacy skills and improving student retention.

More than 50 Microsoft Australia employees have chosen to make use of their three-day annual volunteer leave to actively engage in mentoring young students through three main ABCN programmes called “Spark”, “GOALS” and “Aspirations”.

Spark is a reading programme for primary school students who need help in improving their literacy, language skills and socialisation. Microsoft volunteers who are part of this programme visit selected schools on a regular basis to help the students improve their literacy skills.

In the GOALS programme, Microsoft volunteers hold individual and group sessions with students who are considered to be at risk of disengagement from education. The volunteers encourage these students to pursue higher education.

The Aspirations mentoring programme aims to equip students with the knowledge to make a smooth transition from their high school to higher education, or the practical skills that will help them succeed in the workplace. Microsoft has also collaborated with ABCN to organise a programme featuring some of Australia’s leading companies, to enable these students to explore their options and gain a better perspective of the career choices available to them.

Pip Marlow, Managing Director of Microsoft Australia and a Council Member of the ABCN-Microsoft programs, is leading the initiative by mentoring a school principal.

"Acting as mentors, our volunteers are making a positive impact on the students both academically and socially. This sentiment is reciprocated as on more than one occasion, our employees have let me know that they often get as much out of the programmes as the students have. We will continue supporting ABCN to develop the potential of our future workforce and address the future skills shortage that may affect Australia's competitiveness," said Ms Marlow.