In the 2015 budget, the government announced a commitment to boosting productivity by investing in people by helping develop vocational skills and increasing the quantity and quality of apprenticeships – the Apprenticeship Levy came into force in 2017, alongside other reforms that put employers at the centre.
Prior to this commitment apprenticeship schemes often failed because the apprentices weren’t always supported by their employers and the employers were not supported by the government. Now, with the levy and significant investment in apprenticeships there are well established and respected programmes, it’s all about partnership and a shared challenge. Part of that shared challenge and partnership is the role of mentors within a business to help apprenticeships succeed.
Is mentoring hand-holding?
Often mentorship can be seen as hand-holding or babysitting but this is an outdated view. Apprentices are not children, they are competent adults who have earned, and continue to earn, their right to be in the workplace. Mentors can get as much value from the time and effort they put into their apprentices as the apprentices themselves. We often have employers amazed at the speed in which apprentices not only ‘settle’ but make a positive difference to their employers.
We talk about apprenticeships as opening the door to sustainability. Apprentices are learning on the job and this enables companies and individuals to pass on their skills, and train them in their way of doing things, their values and purpose from Day 1. It can be easier to develop someone from new than try to change an embedded style or attitude, but also for an existing member of staff starting an apprenticeship can be an opportunity to upskill and reset.
Could you be a mentor?
Mentors are recommended, or quite often volunteer themselves. They don’t always have to be the obvious choice of a line manager. It’s also a role that can be shared, a technical mentor and a confidante or buddy one to cover all levels of support. What is important is that mentors are willing to spend time supporting their apprentices in both their work and personal time and are committed to being part of that person’s development. This role is enriching and rewarding for the mentor as it is for the apprentice. Mentors that have worked with Youthforce in the past have seen the value in the interaction and time spent with apprentices and often helps them to progress in their career as well.