One of the challenges facing employers of apprentices is how to ensure they are receiving the support they need to reach their full potential in both their work and training. Many employers have found that allocating a mentor to an apprentice can be a crucial way to create that additional support. Mentors can draw on their knowledge and work experience to help the apprentice navigate any challenges they’re facing. Skilled mentors can help an apprentice develop their own resourcefulness too.
One business that’s switched on to the benefits of mentoring is Merlin, a South Gloucestershire housing association that employs 400 staff. The business recently launched an in-house mentoring programme to provide support to its new recruits joining in roles in business admin, finance, accountancy and IT. They wanted to ensure that the apprentices had the opportunity to talk through how their apprenticeship is going with someone other than their line manager to gain that additional pastoral support that can be so important for apprentices starting out in their careers. Vicky James, HR Business Partner at Merlin, explains:
“We’ve had a great experience recruiting apprentices so we want to make sure they’re getting the best experience they can as they join the business. There’s so much for apprentices to take in in the first few months, not only a new role, but developing their wider work skills, completing their college work, even the challenges of balancing work and home life. We think it’s important to provide all the support we can so that they can gain a fresh perspective on any challenges they might be facing and know that they have another source of support in the business. We’re hoping it will help the apprentices line managers as well, as it means they are not the only ones supporting their apprentice.”
Merlin invited staff to volunteer for the apprentice mentor role, and soon developed a strong cohort of volunteer mentors from across the business. Once the mentors were allocated to their apprentices, Merlin wanted to ensure the mentors were fully equipped for the role, so they started to explore what training could support them. That’s when they discovered the mentor training programme from Apprenticemakers and ran a one day mentor training workshop for their cohort of mentors.
The workshop from Apprenticemakers helped the mentors understand the key skills and abilities required in mentoring, and how to draw on their own knowledge and experience to support as a mentor. It also helped them with the practical activities, such as how to plan mentor meetings and how to record meeting outcomes too.
Vicky says: “The mentor training was invaluable; it really helped to clarify how we want the mentoring to work and what the boundaries of the mentoring role are. It was such an enjoyable and thought provoking day for us all, and it really helped me identify ways in which we can best support the mentors in this new role too. Following the training we’re really excited at the potential for our new mentoring programme to provide a new level of support to our apprentices”.