The benefits of mentoring in workplace and beyond

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As Prospect's life-long learning officer, I was heavily involved in helping to put together a two-year pilot to develop mentoring support and assess its impact. As a result of this experience, I firmly believe that mentoring in the workplace and beyond can offer benefits to mentee, mentor and employer.

Following on from the pilot we are now developing three mentoring-related. The first of these is a series of mentoring podcasts on the union's dedicated career development website Careersmart. Three sections – "Making the case for mentoring", "Getting the most out of mentoring" and "Becoming an effective mentor" – are designed to make what may be an unfamiliar and daunting subject more digestible.

Our second aim is to develop mentoring programmes in Prospect workplaces, in conjunction with employers. Discussions are currently taking place with several employers including the Babcock and the Met Office.

Thirdly, we will seek to apply what we've learned from the mentoring pilot as part of our Gatsby Foundation funded programme to register workplace technicians, known as RegTech.

This will rely on developing a network of RegTech workplace advisors who can promote, support and guide technicians through the process of registering. These will draw on similar skills and perform similar tasks to mentors and in some cases may already have experience of mentoring.

The pilot itself aimed to recruit and support mentees who were either faced with redundancy or who were otherwise looking for a new career, employer or sector. We were particularly interested in helping disadvantaged learners, such as women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), shift workers, part-time workers and remote workers.

The scheme was independent of any other organisation and it was entirely up to mentees whether they informed their employer of their participation. Mentees were offered a variety of different means of support, though by the second phase this had been narrowed down to face to face and telephone contact.

The mentors we recruited were all members with some form of staff management or counselling experience, whether that was as part of their professional role or as union reps. None of the mentors were in the same workplace as the mentees and this sometimes proved an advantage.

The idea was essentially to create a space for mentees to stand back from the hubbub of everyday work and explore where they were in their career, and where they wanted to go, with someone with a different perspective and set of experiences. It was very different from the traditional forms of mentoring, in which employers have, in the main, tended to focus on graduate schemes, "fast-streaming" or specific "job-related" mentoring support and have often been considered a bit exclusive.

The proposition proved attractive with more than 430 members applying for a place on the programme over the two years. We recruited 28 mentees and nine mentors for the first year and 33 mentees, and 13 mentors for the second. Feedback from the pilot was very positive with 94% of mentees who responded after the first phase reporting that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the overall experience, while the figure rose to 100% after the second phase. In terms of concrete outcomes, the programme trained 16 mentors, while 11 mentees had secured new jobs and a further eight were studying, mostly at postgraduate level.

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Rachel Bennett

Rachel Bennett, Life Long Learning Officer for Prospect, has worked in the education and skills sector for 18 years. Her role includes drafting funding bids and managing a range of skills-based projects.

Rachel is also responsible for the development of learning advocates in Prospect-recognised workplaces. Rachel is currently managing the RegTech Project.