From education to employment

How to improve apprentice success by being an effective coach and mentor

Shutterstock, 2022

Apprenticeships require a good deal of investment from all parties, including learners, training providers and employers, all looking for a successful outcome, whether that is to improve Ofsted ratings, career prospects, or whether it might be to introduce new ideas and talent to a business. In this blog, we’ll take a brief look at how to improve apprentice success by being an effective coach and mentor. But, before we jump in, let’s start with the basics…

What is mentoring?

You’ll probably already know that mentoring is a short-medium term professional relationship, where a more experienced individual (the mentor) uses their experience and expertise to advise, guide and support learners through their apprenticeship.

Who can be a mentor?

A mentor can be anyone in the organisation that can help the learner meet their objectives and upskill towards the full apprenticeship standard. In the workplace, mentors should have a more senior role to the apprentice, but you do not necessarily need to be their Line Manager. However, willingness to fulfil the role is as critical as experience, so it’s important you can commit time and patience. Within a college or higher education organisation, coaches need to be fully qualified in their subject matter, hold at least a Level 3 teaching qualification and to have practiced within the profession for at least two years, demonstrating continuous professional development.

Why should I be a mentor?

Being a mentor can be extremely rewarding in terms of personal satisfaction for helping a peer upskill and in terms of the positive experience you will receive. Mentoring also looks great on a resume and can pave the way for leadership roles, which you may want to consider in future.

That’s the basics, so how can you use mentoring skills and techniques to support the apprentice to develop, succeed and grow in their careers?

Why is mentoring necessary?

Throughout their apprenticeship, learners should expect to receive a myriad of support. As a training provider you’ll typically focus support around the “knowledge” / theory required, although your curriculum/ training plan will also offer expansion and amplification around the skills and behaviours required of each standard.

Apprentices can also expect to receive support through mentoring within the workplace. As a mentor in the workplace, you should be fully engaged with the apprenticeship and ensure learners have plenty of opportunities to develop their skills and demonstrate the required behaviours to become the industry standard. This may involve giving opportunities to gain wider knowledge and experience and helping collate evidence that your apprentice has met with the objectives.  Part of the mentor role for employers will incorporate signposting the learner towards other members of staff in the workplace who may also be a useful resource and be able to offer support and share their knowledge and expertise.

Whether you’re a trainer/ coach or a workplace mentor, you may be involved in regular progress meetings and contribute towards assessing your apprentice’s suitability for End Point Assessment (EPA). Let’s take a closer look at what makes a good mentor/ coach and how this can improve apprenticeship success.

What makes a good mentor/ coach?

“Mentoring relationships work best when they move beyond the directive approach of a senior colleague ‘telling it how it is’, to one where they both learn from each other. An effective mentoring relationship is a learning opportunity for both parties, encouraging sharing and learning across generations and/or between roles” – CIPD (n.d.)

Good mentors:
  • Listen
  • Act as a sounding board for ideas and fears
  • Help the person find their own solutions
  • Share ideas and experience
  • Give advice and guidance
  • Signpost where to find a support
  • Be a role model
Good Coaches
  • Don’t need direct involvement in the apprentices work or first-hand experience of their role
  • Tend to ask ‘powerful’ questions, rather than give advice
  • helps apprentices learn by coming to their own conclusions rather than ‘teaching’ them
  • help people to develop their own insights

Both coaches and mentors need to have similar personal qualities (reliability, persistence, respect, good humour, and patience), appropriate leadership behaviour, effective communication skills, and be well-organised and trustworthy.

What evidence is there that effective coaching and mentoring can support apprentice success?

Studies, such as those conducted by Deloitte 2014 across Australian apprenticeships have shown a 12-month retention rate that is 5.2 percentage points higher for apprentices who were mentored compared to those who were not mentored. Further studies by the apprenticeships mentoring toolkit (2017) into the effectiveness of mentoring look at the impact of mentoring support for apprentices on three factors: completion/cancellation of apprenticeships, uptake of apprenticeships, skills levels on completion of apprenticeships. The report concluded that mentoring created:

  • Positive effects in programmes targeted at disadvantaged groups
  • A drop-out rate 18% less than those without mentors
  • Positive effect on skills, accounting for 25% to for 29% of the variation in skills levels

Interested in developing your mentoring and coaching skills?

You can develop your mentoring and coaching skills for apprentices effectively, by attending our webinar series: Developing your coaching and mentoring skills to improve apprentice success – starting 14 Feb

Costs are £225 (+VAT), including 4 live webinars (with Q&A), access to 4 webinar recordings, and supporting tools/ resources.

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