Mentoring apprentices

This information is designed for use by union reps. If you are an apprentice, see our Information and resources for apprentices.

Mentoring is an effective way of helping people to progress in their careers and is becoming increasing popular. It is a partnership between two people (mentor and mentee), normally working in a similar field or sharing similar experiences.

However, many organisations, employers and even providers are unclear as to what mentoring is, and how it can be used effectively to support apprentices to successfully complete their Apprenticeship and progress to further learning and success at work.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a guide who can help the mentee find the right direction and develop solutions to career issues. Mentors rely upon having had similar experiences to gain an empathy with the mentee and an understanding of their issues. Mentoring provides the mentee with an opportunity to think about career options and progress.

Mentors can provide wise counsel, help a new employee orientate into the workplace, provide information, advice and guidance relating to the learning and training aspects of the Apprenticeship, and work with the apprentice and employer to ensure that problems are resolved quickly and do not threaten the Apprenticeship.

How can mentoring help apprentices?

Mentoring is particularly important for apprentices as they are often young people entering the workplace for the first time. The mentor relationship provides additional support, guidance and pastoral care, which is removed from the apprentice's direct line management chain.

Who would make a good mentor?

A mentor should be someone from outside the apprentice’s reporting hierarchy at work. A union learning rep or workplace rep is often well placed to mentor apprentices. It is also essential that issues between mentor and mentee are confidential.

An employer considering taking on apprentices should give consideration to allowing for training and time off for mentors within the company. Ideally, a mentor should be a member of the union or a union rep. Union reps often have training and experience of mentoring-type skills through their union role; for example, many will already have experience of the following mentoring skills:

  • active listening
  • questioning
  • building rapport
  • offering constructive feedback
  • setting targets
  • offering support and guidance
  • signposting
  • acting as a role model.

The TUC offers a course to union reps on mentoring apprentices.

Next: Recruiting apprentices