Readiness Matters: The Importance and Impact of Mentor Training

Posted by Janis Kupersmidt on February 26, 2014

Why invest in mentor training?  Adequate training is important before beginning anything new, and especially for mentoring.  Mentoring is a unique relationship that involves a lot of important responsibilities.

An investment in pre-match and ongoing training could greatly contribute to the success of your program.  And, turns out, while they have the best intentions, most people are unprepared or under-prepared for their mentoring roles.

Mentors and mentees need a clear understanding of the program’s expectations before they join. By making roles and responsibilities clear from the beginning, the potential for future misunderstandings is minimized.  Building an effective relationship ensures that the mentor and mentee get the most out of their time together.

Pre-match mentor training allows mentors to make informed decisions concerning if mentoring youth is right for them.  It gives mentors an opportunity to meet other prospective mentors and develop an informal support group.  And, it contributes to building a solid foundation for the relationship so mentors can have the greatest impact on a child.In fact, receiving training and ongoing support during the mentoring relationship has been shown to directly relate to how long the mentoring relationship lasts and to contribute to mentee’s positive outcomes.

Additionally, training prior to matching a mentor with a youth should, at a minimum, provide the mentor with information about program rules, a discussion of mentors’ goals and expectations for the mentor-mentee relationship, obligations and roles, advice on helping develop a relationship with the mentee, legal and ethical issues, and how to appropriately end the relationship, when the time comes for closure.

Most mentor training programs are didactic, just explaining the parameters of the mentoring, its history and goals, and program rules.  Training needs to be interactive, with skills-focused activities. Mentor training should use evidence-based materials, and there should be opportunities for training throughout the relationship. This gives mentors the opportunity to learn new skills and ask questions that come up.

Additionally, training should address the needs of special populations of mentored youth that might participate in the program, for example, children in foster care, children of prisoners, children with learning differences, and immigrant children. These special populations face unique challenges that might violate mentor expectations and will certainly challenge the mentor to heighten his or her sensitivity.

Why invest in mentor training?

The more committed a mentor is, the less likely he or she will terminate the relationship prematurely.  The more effective the mentor is, the better the quality of the mentoring relationship.