The Engineering Trust

Mentoring an Apprentice – What is involved?

A key element to any apprenticeship is the company mentor. The guru, the talisman that will lead their Padawan (for all the Star Wars fans out there) through the apprenticeship journey and into their engineering career.

In all seriousness, they have a big role to play in the successful completion of the apprenticeship programme and businesses looking to take on an apprentice should have a good understanding about what is involved in mentoring an (often) young member of staff. 

Who is a mentor?
A mentor within a business is an expert in his or her field who is able and willing to pass on their experience to those who are developing their skills and knowledge. They have to be able to monitor an individual’s progress and provide constructive feedback which is aimed to aid further development. 

Being an apprentice mentor is not all about developing a learner’s knowledge and skills in relation to the job they will undertake in the future. A mentor must also support an apprentice's transition into the working environment. Many apprentices will have come straight from school and will need help in understanding how to conduct themselves, work with others and develop confidence in all the areas experienced workers take for granted

Do they have to work with the apprentice all the time?
No not necessarily, it depends on the size of the business and the breadth of the apprenticeship programme. In smaller businesses the apprentice may well work under the mentor all the time. In larger businesses there is a good chance that the apprenticeship programme may see the person move through several departments and work under many different people within the business. The mentor in this case should be a person with a wide knowledge of the business and someone who oversees the apprentices, working with other in the business to ensure their progression. Ultimately the mentor is the person that ensures the apprentice progresses through their programme and someone who the apprentice can refer to at any point.

So, what is involved?
We can’t duck this, it’s more work on top of your normal workload. We do however help to make it as painless as possible! Initially ETT works with the business and possibly the mentor to pinpoint which Apprenticeship Standard fits the role and/or need the business is looking to fill. From that we work in collaboration to draw up the Company Training Plan (CTP) which maps out the full programme and highlights all the learning points and gateways that the apprentice will need to achieve. This also sets out at which points the mentor will need to have input on a day-to-day or periodic basis. Some of that work may be training the apprentice directly whilst other work may be reviewing their work and signing off assessments. Our e-portfolio system holds all the relevant information and is a key tool in aiding the mentor in their management of the apprentice and their learning. 

We are here to support the apprentice
We support the apprentice and mentor throughout the whole process from recruitment to completion. Our Training Officers have 28 hours of contact time with the apprentice per year with both face-to-face and remote review sessions. The Training Officer also plans and facilitates any college element required to fulfil the qualification and has consistent contact with the apprentice to ensure everything moves forward in a timely fashion.  

Who makes a great mentor?
Someone who is approachable and see the value in the apprenticeship scheme. An expert who can admit that, even with their extensive knowledge, they sometimes do not know the answer but will find it out is a wonderful mentor!

Airbus Helicopters - Mentoring in the Workplace
We have worked with Airbus Helicopters for several years and have been impressed with the apprentice mentoring scheme they operate. Apprentices are mentored by their departmental managers and managed on a day-to-day basis by their servicing team crew chiefs. 

Airbus (one individual in particular) has taken mentoring to a higher level. He plans weekly learning sessions where various subjects are taught and discussed. Some are planned to give information the apprentices need to know (such as the theory of flight); others pick up on subjects where it is identified that a lack of theory is impeding the apprentice’s progress. Informative, enjoyable, individual and flexible in order to keep all on track – a great example of mentoring at work.

Our tops tips on mentoring
1. Use the right training provider – one that supports you and your business as well as supports the apprentice. Keep an eye out for the amount for contact time they plan to put into the apprentice and how they will be managing aspects such as reviews and company training plans.

2. Find the right apprentice in the first place! Make sure your recruitment process (or the one that your apprentice provider does on your behalf) is thorough.

3. Don’t feel like you have to do everything. As a mentor you have to oversee the whole process however others in the business can manage and train the apprentice.

4. Enjoy the process! We work with bright and motivated people who are at the start of their career. Teach them what you know but also, keep an eye out for their ideas… you never know, they may even teach you something.

Looking to take on an apprentice?

Get in touch, we're happy to help.

Written by Dave, Training Officer