Apprenticeships can be an extremely rewarding pathway for both the learner and the business. To ensure they reach their full potential, apprentices must be adequately supported throughout their programme. Every apprentice should have a workplace mentor. This is a designated person within the business who helps them settle in, understands their learning and development needs and supports them to perform well in their role. In this article, we explain how to be a good apprenticeship mentor.
It’s vital that anyone working with young people has an understanding of safeguarding. Safeguarding policy and practice aims to ensure that children, young people and vulnerable adults are protected from neglect, abuse and significant harm. Since the majority of apprentices are aged 16-18, they fall into the category of children and young people. Apprenticeship employers, therefore, have a duty to safeguard their apprentices.
As an apprenticeship mentor, you will play a key role in safeguarding the young people you mentor. While safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility, it is likely that you will have the most frequent contact with your mentee and will, therefore, play an important role in ensuring their wellbeing throughout their apprenticeship programme.
As a mentor, you should ideally have basic safeguarding training so that you are aware of best practice in this area. Speak to your employer and training provider for support, training and advice in this area.
Be a Good Role Model
As an apprenticeship mentor, it is vital to be a good role model. Your apprentice mentee will be looking up to you and learning from your attitudes and behaviours in the workplace. For many apprentices, it is their first experience of employment. This means they are not only learning the skills and knowledge for the specific trade but also key employability and soft skills.
You will be assisting your apprentice to develop their approach to work so ensure you always remain positive and professional. Be mindful of how you communicate, not just with your mentee but also with others. They will be watching and learning from your example.
Make Time for Mentoring
Mentoring an apprentice is a gratifying role, but it does come with an additional workload. Be sure to schedule regular time for mentoring, speaking to your manager about being relieved of other duties to allow for this where necessary.
A good mentor provides regular, one to one sessions for their mentees. This is time dedicated to listening to them and supporting them with any issues they may face. These could be related to their coursework, fitting in at the company or personal issues they may face. You may find that your apprentice needs weekly meetings at first and requires less frequent support later on in their programme. Be prepared to provide the time they need as this could be the difference between success and failure, especially in the early stages when everything is new.
If possible, you should stay close to your mentee (perhaps shadowing them) for the first few weeks in their role. This way, you can support them to settle in, learn the company systems and answer any questions they may have. Then, over time, you can allow them greater autonomy to promote independence.
Understand Your Role as an Apprenticeship Mentor
Do you have a proper understanding of what it means to be an apprenticeship mentor? What does the role actually entail?
At its most basic, the role of an apprenticeship mentor is to support the apprentices learning and development while ensuring their apprenticeship is a positive experience. From the outset, you should have clarity on what is expected of you in this role and support from your employer to implement effective processes, systems and scheduling to ensure you can fulfil the role to the best of your ability.
You may find it helpful to complete mentoring training; perhaps speak to your employer about funding for this under the professional development budget if it is not offered as standard. Your training provider will have lots of experience of, and knowledge in, working with apprentices and young people so approach them for advice on how best to fulfil the role.
Mentoring an apprentice can be an extremely rewarding role. However, you will need the relevant knowledge and skills to perform the role effectively. You will also need support from your employer, so you don’t become overwhelmed with the additional workload. Our tips for becoming an effective apprenticeship mentor can provide a starting point for further research on this topic. Use them as a guide to signpost you to further advice and information.
The Oxford College of Apprenticeships is a main provider of apprenticeship training in the UK. If you would like to discuss your apprenticeship training needs with us in more depth, we would love to hear from you. You can call us on 01865 515 255, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill in a contact form.