Many youth mentoring programmes falter because there is inadequate support given to mentors and young people after they have been matched, while the ongoing training of mentors is almost non-existent.
Mentors value support and ongoing training as it stops them from becoming isolated, affirms their efforts, serves as a point where they can obtain advice for the mentoring journey and it 'normalises' certain feelings and emotions they might be experiencing such as feeling inadequate or frustrated.
Ongoing training reinforces topics covered during the mentor training programme, whilst also allowing programme staff to focus on any specific areas require more intensive training. Monthly meetings between programme staff and mentors initially will have a greater chance of seeing strong bonds developed between all involved in the mentoring relationship. Some topics which could be part of ongoing training could include:
- Local community issues
- Panels of mentors, young people and caregivers/parents sharing their experiences of the mentoring journey
- Transitioning from school or training to the workplace
- Health and safety issues
- The development of specific life skills
- Developing leadership skills
- Moral dilemmas
- Communication skills
- Managing crises
- Dealing with gender issues
- Clarification of roles and responsibilities of other agencies for young people
- Assisting abused young people
- Prejudice and discrimination
- Goal setting
- Working with the young person's family
- Educators sharing issues involving young people
- Guest speakers or panel discussions covering a variety of topics
- Resolving conflicts
- Preparing for closure
These meetings should also involve time being set aside for mentors to share experiences, raise problems and build their networks.
Programme staff need to contact mentors on a regular basis during the first three months of the match. Contact can be by telephone, email or face-to-face. Weekly contact is encouraged initially, which then becomes fortnightly, later monthly, in addition to the ongoing training gatherings and any other planned activities involving mentors and young people.
There might be times for programme staff to bring mentors and mentees together to work through specific relationship issues they are battling with. If handled sympathetically, empathetically and sensitively, the mentoring relationship can be considerably strengthened.
Programme staff are encouraged to keep confidential records of the mentoring relationships, including mentor attendance records at ongoing training gatherings. Regular feedback from mentors and young people is critical to the success and ongoing development of youth mentoring programmes. Mentors should be required to complete monthly, user-friendly log sheets and young people could be interviewed or surveyed on a regular basis.