Mentor Information

Most people are nervous about being a mentor for the first time. Maybe the word ‘Mentor’ suggests something quite different from what you are used to doing. In fact mentoring is an entirely natural process and you may well have already acted as a mentor, or have been mentored, without realising.


What does ‘mentoring’ mean?

Mentoring happens when one person assists another to grow, acquire new skills and insights, and develop his or her potential. The mentoring relationship builds confidence and helps the learner to take increasing responsibility for his/her own development.

Mentors do not need to be qualified trainers nor do they need to be highly skilled at the job the learner does or the area in which the learner wants to develop, but often they are.

People embark on mentoring for many different reasons: to support them personally, to help them in their career and/or to improve their effectiveness in their job. The essential quality of mentoring is that it supports learning and that development is a proactive, positive and generally enjoyable choice for both the mentor and learner.

Benefits to you, the mentor

Being a mentor is challenging and stimulating. You can develop coaching and counselling skills, many of which are transferable to other areas of life. You may acquire a greater understanding of issues through reflecting on them with your learner, which can revitalise your interest in work. Mentoring can form part of your own career development and be relevant to your appraisal.

Benefits to your learner

Many learners find their self-confidence and motivation increase through sharing experiences and receiving one-on one feedback. As a mentor, you act as a sounding board and a trusted ‘ally’ so your learner can explore strengths and development areas in an encouraging environment, with the opportunity to think through his/her direction in life. You also act as a role model, consciously or not, enabling the learner to see new ways of thinking and behaving.

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Who is involved in the process?

Your learner will receive support from a variety of people – such as a line manager and his/her DAF Assessor. All those who give support need to be clear about their roles at the outset.

Your role as mentor

Your learner’s interests are paramount in your mentoring relationship. You are there to:

  • Build an open and honest relationship and create an atmosphere where your learner feels safe to try out different ways of doing things.
  • Support and encourage your learner’s personal development and learning by giving confidential feedback to reinforce what your learner already does well, and help in areas where he/she wants to develop.
  • Help the learner to take increasing initiative for his/her own learning and development and to take increasing responsibility for managing the mentoring relationship.
  • Fully understand what subjects the learner is covering whilst at college and reinforcing this within the workplace. Training is most effective when put into practice on return to work.

Best practices

It is a good idea to be familiar with the education your learner receives at college (you can use the Apprenticeship poster within the workshop to help with this). On their return from college you could:

  • Challenge the learner to tell or demonstrate to you what he/she has learnt, you will be able to correct any misunderstandings and reinforce the knowledge gained.
  • Try to get the learner to work on jobs that relate to the subject recently taught at the college.
  • Discuss with your learner what assignments he/she needs to complete before his/her next block release training and ask them to tell you how they will go about it.
  • Discuss with his/her assessor what evidence is required and try to help them to gain it through job allocation.
  • Allow the learner to be active in any diagnosis jobs. Assisting in complex diagnosis will help your learner gain a full understanding of how systems work.
  • Share your experiences of interesting and challenging jobs with your learner to create enthusiasm in these areas.

Your learner’s role

Your learner should seek development opportunities, undertake self-learning and get support and encouragement at a pace which suits him/her. Initially, your learner may not feel very clear about what he/she wants from mentoring, and so your role as mentor is to help define these – although they may change as the mentoring process develops.

Your DAF Assessor’s role

As you are part of a mentoring programme the DAF Assessor will act as a point of contact for queries and will support you and your learner if you have any difficulties that you cannot resolve. The DAF Assessor maintains overall responsibility for each Apprentice’s progression during their time on the DAF Apprenticeship Programme. The Assessor can help support mentoring arrangements, provide administrative backup, briefing, training, and provide action plans for the learner.

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You bring your own unique experience of life and work combined with a friendly interest in your learner’s development. You don’t need to be ‘perfect’. Indeed, your learner may find you very supportive if you are open about your own development needs as well as strengths.

Communication skills

You will need a range of interpersonal skills to be a mentor, including:

  • Listening attentively and non-judgementally.
  • Giving and receiving feedback.
  • Questioning skills to encourage your learner to talk and think through issues.
  • The ability to challenge constructively.

Personal organisation

Before you start mentoring, consider the amount of time you are willing to give. Is it the level of commitment that your learner expects?

Flexible attitude

Being flexible means that you respond appropriately to your learner’s changing needs and you are open to new ideas and different ways of doing things. Flexibility comes with increased awareness of your own behaviour and attitudes and those of others.

General responsibilities

Everyone involved in mentoring shares the responsibility for maintaining an ethical approach. This covers confidentiality to protect sensitive and personal information, and a belief in both the right and ability of learners to make their own decisions.

Other basic values that underpin mentoring include treating people with respect and honesty, and the importance of being non-judgemental. Mentoring can sometimes evoke strong feelings, such as anger and therefore you need to know how to deal with these situations.

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