Developing Mentors to Support Apprentices

Today, more and more businesses are embracing the concept of mentoring as a way of sharing and retaining of knowledge and developing team members and potential successors.

Mentoring has its roots in the writings of Homer in the Odyssey. When Odysseus, king of Ithaca, went to fight in the Trojan War, he left the care of his household to his old and trusted friend Mentor. More specifically Mentor acted as a teacher and overseer to Telemachus, the son of the King. When the war ended Odysseus was condemned to wander vainly in search of his home. During this time Telemachus set off to find his father accompanied by the goddess Athene, who took the form of Mentor. In time father and son were reunited and together they successfully cast down the usurpers of Odysseus’s throne to restore the kingdom and birthright of Telemachus. Thus the role of Mentor was not just to raise and care for Telemachus but to prepare him for the responsibilities and tasks ahead. Hence the term ‘Mentor’ has now become synonymous with the concept of trusted adviser, friend, teacher and wise counsellor (Shea, 1997).

Mentoring is simply about learning from the benefit of somebody else’s experience. You can coach somebody without knowing the essence of their job but to be an effective mentor, you have to have walked in their shoes.

In the context of the new trailblazer Apprenticeships, mentoring is a recommended ‘off the job’ learning activity and can significantly support Apprentices throughout their development. A mentor can help Apprentices to think through issues and approaches, guide them through challenges and serve as a source of wisdom in relation to the requirements of the Standard.

Apprentices can either choose a mentor based on credibility, reputation and potential ‘fit’ or a more formal, structured mentoring strategy may be in place within the organisation.

For the mentoring relationship to be successful, it is important to establish a clear foundation in terms of agreeing how the Apprentice wants to work with the mentor and agreeing a clear focus through setting mentoring objectives or goals.

A ‘Mentoring Agreement’ can help to set up the mentoring relationship and articulate this focus. A tool like this will really to get the relationship off to the right start because the right things will be agreed from the outset.

Adalta deliver a Mentoring Skills Course to help participants gain a better understanding of what mentoring is and develop the knowledge and capability to successfully support Apprentice development. Click here for more details