A number of universities offer training for those undertaking the role of workplace mentor for an apprentice. Mentors have a vital role to play as up to 80% of learning may take place in the workplace but most people in these roles will not be trained educators.
University of Derby
The University of Derby gives a lot of support to workplace mentors. Mentors have a compulsory university induction (currently this is face-to-face but there will shortly be an online option). There is a Mentors’ Handbook that covers programme information and hints and tips on mentoring and promoting independent learning.
The university is developing an online resource for mentors that covers the pedagogy of work-based learning, how people learn, coaching and mentoring and assessment processes. They also offer a 40 credit module at level 6 which is HEA accredited and gives associate fellowship of the HEA.
In addition to this mentors are invited a further three to four times per year to participate in workshops at the university. Derby is also developing a MOOC for employers and has a range of employer drop-in sessions both invitation only and informal.
Northumbria University provides a joint induction day for apprentices and their workplace mentors. During the induction day mentors are provided with clarity in relation to the requirements of their role and introduced to the approach to learning that underpins the apprenticeship. In addition to a mentor handbook they are supported by development workshops and on-line resources. Mentors can choose to gain academic credits for their workplace practice, which can contribute towards a post-graduate qualification in coaching at the University.
The University has also appointed a number of professional development coaches (PDCs) as extended members of the programme team, with each apprentice having an individually appointed PDC. The role of the PDC extends to supporting the workplace mentor in addition to the apprentice. Action learning sets meet weekly with the PDC and help the apprentices understand the nature and depth required to meet the standards.
‘The programme team has found this link into the workplace setting invaluable in supporting the apprentices in the application of their academic learning through action learning sets.’ Brenda Stalker, Northumbria University