Mentoring apprentices

Mentoring is an effective way of helping people to progress in their careers and is particularly useful for young apprentices as it helps them acclimatise to the workplace and gives them valuable support.

It is a partnership between two people (mentor and mentee), normally working in a similar field or sharing similar experiences. If you are an apprentice you should find out who your mentor is as this person will help guide you through your apprenticeship.

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. The TUC has developed an interactive, online learning module that helps to explain what mentoring involves see (put in hyper link).

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.

Why is it important?

Mentoring is particularly important for apprentices as they are often young people entering the workplace for the first time. It’s a good way of supporting and improving communication between the employer and the apprentice, often giving apprentices “a voice”.

The mentor relationship provides additional support, guidance and pastoral care, which is removed from the apprentice's direct line management chain. Mentoring plays an important role in motivating apprentices to persevere with their training.

Who would make a good mentor?

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

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 representative. Union crepresentatives 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.