Mentoring programs aim to provide a structured and trusting relationship that brings people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement.
What can mentoring help the young person to achieve?
Depending on the type of program, mentoring can help young people to achieve anything from finding a career, better grades at school, experiencing new social activities and learning essential skills for life. The mentor can be someone who helps the young person find work experience or if they are a business mentor they can help the young person to learn more about the organisation and professional resources needed to succeed in that area. The mentor is someone to talk to, someone who will listen and not judge.
Good mentoring programs
A responsible mentoring program requires:
- A well-defined mission statement and established operating principles
- Regular, consistent contact between mentor and mentee
- Establishment under the auspices of a recognised organisation
- Paid or volunteer staff with appropriate skills
- Written role statements for all staff and volunteer positions
- Adherence to Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) requirements
- Inclusiveness in relation to ethnicity, culture, socio-economic background, gender and sexuality as appropriate to the program
- Adequate ongoing financial and in-kind resources
- Written administrative and program procedures
- Documented criteria which define eligibility for participation in the program
- Program evaluation and ongoing assessment
- A program plan that has input from stakeholders
- Risk management and confidentiality policies
- Use of generally accepted accounting practices
- A rationale for staffing arrangements based on the needs of all parties
What activities take place during the mentoring sessions?
Depending on the type of program all sorts of activities can take place during mentoring sessions such as researching careers on the internet, visiting work sites, playing sports, going to the movies, museums, and parks. Work on a community project together like planting the local community garden, building furniture at the local community shed or just sitting and talking to one another.
What are the different types of mentoring?
Social and emotional wellbeing – Mentoring to assist young people to increase their self-esteem, self-efficacy and resilience by actively supporting their social and emotional wellbeing. The focus includes improving both the young person’s life skills and the positive connections they have with their community.
Individual talents and leadership – Mentoring to assist young people to further develop their individual talents and/or leadership skills in a specific area (e.g. sports, photography, drama) in order for them to reach their full potential.
Identity, culture and faith – Mentoring to assist young people to grow in their understanding of their faith and/or culture and cultural identity. The program actively supports young people to be proud and confident of their identity and culture and to be able to exercise this in their community.
Youth justice and crime prevention – Mentoring to assist young people to avoid anti-social and offending behaviours by encouraging connectedness with positive elements in their community and increasing protective factors.
Education, training and employment – Mentoring to assist young people to positively engage in and maintain their participation in education, training and employment. These programs assist young people to develop a vision for their future and provide support to achieve their education, training and career goals.
How long is the program?
Most programs have a minimum commitment that they ask all young people to adhere to. This could be anything from 12 weeks (the length of a school term) up to 1 year. In some programs if the young person and mentor enjoy working together there is no end to how long the program can run. In some organisations longer relationships are encouraged.
How is a mentor allocated?
Every program matches mentors and young people differently, but the common ways include matching a pair based on their interests and likes, or on their religious or cultural backgrounds. This is achieved by comparing the comments each person has written on their application form.
Other programs have welcome days, during which a group of mentors and young people get together to play games, have a barbeque or work on activity sheets together. At the end of the day both groups nominate who they got along with best and are matched according to their preferences.
What if the young person doesn’t get along with the mentor?
The matching process is done very carefully and the likelihood of a bad match is quite small, but in the event that the young person doesn’t get along with the mentor the program staff must be notified.
If the program is based at school, the teacher should be informed, and in a community program the young person must communicate with the program staff. The staff or teacher may want to discuss this with the young person and see if the two people can work things out. If this is not possible the young person may be re-matched with another mentor.
Is the mentor bound by confidentiality?
What is told to the mentor will remain confidential unless the young person or someone else is at risk of being harmed. In such cases, the mentor must tell someone else in a position of authority.
How can a young person join a mentoring program?
A variety of mentoring programs can be found on the Australian Youth Mentoring Network website.