Accessing Social Capital Through Corporate Mentorship

Corporate mentoring programs can build interest in new careers and provide access to networks that open doors

For young people, positive and diverse networks have been shown to support personal development and academic improvements

Networks are a critical ingredient to students’ career planning and growth, as up to 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections. 

Students from families of different income levels, parental education and race don’t experience equal access to networks — particularly professional networks.

  • Young people from lower-income households are less likely to report close relationships with non-family adults and informal mentors such as coaches and teachers than their affluent peers. 

Capital One is supporting the Christensen Institute with a $100,000 grant to help close the networking gap. 

Following the Christensen Institute’s launch of its Social Capital Playbook, a resource that offers steps for building and strengthening students’ networks, its researchers will collaborate with organizations working to build more effective and equitable career pathways.

  • In the coming year, it will implement and evaluate the Playbook’s recommendations in an effort to test the research and document new and emerging designs.
  • These efforts will continue to equip decision makers, practitioners and funders with tested strategies for increasing low-income and historically marginalized student access to social capital.

"Relationships matter and who you know is just as important as what you know,” says Kerone Vatel, Senior Vice President of Community Impact and Investment at Capital One. “Promoting equitable access to networks that can expand students’ career opportunities and awareness of possibilities is imperative if we want to ensure our education and workforce systems benefit us all, particularly those facing institutional and systemic barriers.”

This support comes as part of the Capital One Impact Initiative, a $200 million, multi-year commitment to close gaps in equity and opportunity by focusing on key areas such as racial equity, small business support, workforce development and financial well-being. 

“Supporting initiatives that design, codify, and measure tools that can grow students' social capital is an integral part of Capital One's education impact strategy,” Vatel said. “We are passionate about supporting the work of the Christensen Institute and bringing others to the table as we learn more about how to do this well."

Fostering connections through corporate mentorship programs

Closing gaps in student development requires early access to mentorship and opportunity.

The Capital One Coders program is helping students gain not just computer science knowledge, but also social capital, according to a recent study by ImpactED, a research and evaluation center based at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted on behalf of Capital One. 

The Coders program pairs Capital One associates with students to serve as mentors and foster greater connections and confidence as students explore technology through design thinking and coding.

ImpactED’s evaluation of Capital One Coders measured the program's ability to support social capital by surveying partners across seven markets and 18 school districts and organizations. It conducted in-depth interviews with a subset of partners, students and their parents. 

Findings show that all partner organizations that participated in the program reported that their students experienced higher levels of knowledge, interest and self-efficacy in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

Participants also reported gains in social capital — the value of personal and professional networks — as over 80% of district and organizational partners reported that the Coders program contributed to increases in students’ personal networks (85%) and professional networks (81%) to a moderate or large extent. 

“Capital One is making a significant impact as the people that they are recruiting are able to build meaningful relationships with our students,” said one Coders partner organization. 

The next generation of mentoring programs

As ImpactED and the Christensen Institute elaborated on, corporate mentoring programs can help tackle both sides of the opportunity equation: what students know and whom they know. 

By intentionally integrating social capital metrics into program designs and evaluations, companies can help close the social side of opportunity gaps and better support students on their career journey. 

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