Who are FINCO Activators? What do they do? These are some of the questions Activators get asked quite often. Nur Marina Abdullah shares her experience as a FINCO Mentor Activator for Pulau Pinang.

1. What is your role as an Activator?

As a FINCO Mentor Activator, the central aspect of the role is to work closely with school counsellors in developing and implementing a comprehensive and sustainable career guidance plan. Part of that plan is the aspect of carrying out Life Aspiration Workshops that are run in schools for students aged between 15 and 17. These workshops are curated to meet the specific needs of each school and are based on initial data collected during the first phase of the programme. For instance, if there a need to focus on confidence and self-esteem, workshop modules will be built that serve this particular need. In other words, it isn’t a one size fits all approach.

2. Why is the role important in running FINCO programmes?

The role exists to support school counsellors with the planning and implementation of a sustainable career guidance plan that will benefit students who are due to leave school very soon. We also facilitate efforts taken to build the capacity of school counsellors and one of the ways in which this is being done, is through a two-day counsellor training workshop that is run in every state. As FINCO is based on the Collective Impact model, the nature of this multi-stakeholder organisation involves working with relevant stakeholders (such as the state education department, district officers, school principals, etc.) as a way of building and sustaining an ecosystem that is conducive to the growth and progress of these schools. After two years, the goal is to have school counsellors better equipped with the tools and resources that are needed to fulfil their objectives. Another part of the role is to ensure the involvement of FINCO members in the Life Aspiration Workshops as facilitators/mentors. As a huge part of the workshop is to expose students to professionals from the financial industry, we invite members to participate and join the workshops. This allows students to meet with FI professionals, to learn about their careers and goals, at the same time, beneficial for FIs to interact with students to further understand some of the challenges that they face.

3. What are the common challenges school counsellors face in their day-to-day lives?

Some of the common challenges the school counsellors face are heavy workloads that take up most of their time and thus, allows very little time for them to invest in the true nature of their work. As the ratio of school counsellors is currently one counsellor to every five hundred students (1:500), they find themselves extremely overwhelmed with tasks that do not necessarily maximise their skills and abilities. Another challenge that school counsellors face are related to a lack of time, and that is a lack of knowledge on updated industry news and developments. With the emergence of new areas of work such as green technology, social media and so on, school counsellors feel that they could be better prepared to guide students in their preferred direction if they had the time, resources and support to develop a more in depth understanding of the careers landscape. The role of an Activator is to work through these challenges alongside them and support them throughout the two years.

4. What are the common issues students are facing in terms of chasing their aspiration?

The challenges faced by students are complex and stem from issues that go far beyond academic abilities. As mentioned earlier, issues could include confidence and self-esteem. Without tackling these challenges, students will remain at a disadvantage and are at risk of being left behind. At the same time, as FINCO schools tend to be located further away from cities or main townships, the social mobility of students may be impacted if they decide to move into underpaid, low skill jobs which will potentialy affect their living standards in both the short and long run. This is why a needs analysis and assessment were carried out at the start of the programme to understand the complex conditions of students and determine barriers that make it extremely challenging for them to thrive and succeed. Furthermore, as an Activator, it is extremely important to build and maintain relationships with those within the ecosystem as a means of ensuring that the work that we do is in line with the needs and objectives of everyone from the state education department, to the school counsellors themselves. It is extremely important to FINCO that we are able to add value to students and not diminish it.

5. What is your most memorable moment as an Activator?

There are so many memorable moments, but this was a special moment because the teachers and volunteers witnessed this change with me. It was during an activity where students had to reflect and identify positive traits most relevant to them. They had to start with 10 traits and cut them down 5 traits and then the final trait. It is a difficult activity as it may be hard for students to identify their top traits moreover narrowing it down to only 1 trait. Hence, during the sharing session, students tend to not share as it may seem as if they are boasting about themselves. There was a girl who was very shy, but she volunteered to present. She was nervous at first, but as she continued to present, her sharing broke into a motivational speech about conquering fear and being brave. She received a loud round of applause by the end of the sharing.

Originally from KL, her background is in international relations and business. She is interested in positive education and wellbeing in schools, and how this could influence behavioural change in youth in the B40 communities. Marina brings us through her journey as an Activator.

Get in touch with us or sign-up online. If you wish to get in touch with Marina, email her at [email protected].