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Derbyshire Adult Community Education Service (DACES) and the University of Derby (UoD) have been working on a small scale research project to look at Outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment in apprenticeship standards.

With a shift towards an employer-led delivery approach, this project, funded by the Education and Training Foundation, was keen to test the following questions:

  • Does training workforce managers to develop new skills in mentoring enhance high quality apprenticeship provision?
  • Does the deployment of trained workplace mentors, support identified apprentices to become more successful in their workplaces and to secure jobs in the future?
  • Does the training of workforce managers in mentoring skills and qualifications benefit our staff and learners to bring together diverse people to benefit society as a whole?

To find answers to these questions DACES designed a three-day training programme and alongside that put together a comprehensive toolkit of materials to aid the support and development of staff who were preparing for their role as a Workplace Mentor.

“The added bonus of an accreditation means that I can carry this training with me through my career and build on it.”

To underpin the training DACES registered with Gateway Qualifications to become an approved centre, so that they were able to give staff the opportunity to achieve a Level 2 Award in Mentoring qualification to support them in their role.

The Gateway Qualifications Level 2 Award in Mentoring provided the structure and exactly the right learning outcomes for the would-be mentors. Covering 14 guided learning hours (GLH) within two mandatory units it was the ideal size to meet the preparatory needs of mentors.

The Award in Mentoring was closely linked to the needs of the apprentices too. Providing a good balance between knowledge and understanding and practice in the workplace/in simulated circumstances.

It also offered an accreditation process that was flexible, allowing for a more holistic approach to evidence gathering. For example, by using Individual Witness Statements rather than purely a portfolio based method of assessment. This was felt to be preferable, due to time pressures on busy managers in the workplace.

In total 30 Derbyshire County Council mentors were trained as part of the programme.

Feedback collected from Mentors and apprentices, before, during and after the training was evaluated using surveys and mentor reflective accounts.

100% of Mentors felt more confident in their mentoring role since attending the training and they also felt that their mentoring skills have significantly developed as a result of the training.

“The added bonus of an accreditation means that I can carry this training with me through my career and build on it.”

As a result of attending the mentor training, they also cited the impact on their mentoring practice:

  • I now feel more organised and am now more prepared to take on the mentoring role successfully.
  • Better listening skills
  • More confidence in mentoring
  • I feel more confident in mentoring, have a more rounded understanding of what it means to be a mentor, and have been working on my listening skills.

and how the training had impacted on their apprentices (mentees):

  • I feel that my apprentice has grown in confidence, helped by my approach to mentoring
  • Confidence of mentee has increased noticeably
  • My apprentice is now supported better
  • My apprentice has commented particularly on my listening skills

Reflections on their own learning and practice as a Mentor shows how much the Gateway Qualifications Level 2 Award in Mentoring has been useful:

“I think that the qualification I am working towards is a good learning process and will add to my performance of being a work place mentor. By reflecting on my own practice and getting feedback from others I will be able to improve my performance.”

Before this course I had very limited experience of mentoring, I really had no understanding. I believe this course has given me the opportunity to develop skills as a mentor and I need time to be able to put what I have learnt into practice. As I grow and learn the better the experience the mentee will have and hopefully will grow her skills and she will be a positive, valuable team member. 

This course has given me the opportunity to develop skills as a mentor and I need time to be able to put what I have learnt into practice.

Due to demand for the mentoring training further cohorts are to be planned throughout the spring and summer term.

DACES are also developing their Level 3 Learning Mentor Apprenticeship as a progression route for new mentors.

In answering the original questions, the project has demonstrated a definite “Yes” – new skills have been developed and these are having an impact on both Mentors and Apprentices.  Workforce Managers also benefit from the opportunity to achieve a recognised qualification.