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“Mentoring systems can help to get learners started, get them on track and keep them on track.” says Matt Sang, Neighbourhood Connection Manager from Community Networks.

“Our mentoring system has supported our team to complete the training quicker and in a more connected way – which means that they are able to offer better assistance to the people they support. It has also helped put all the theory into actual practice.”

Matt Sang talks to Careerforce about the mentoring system his organisation has in place, how it works and how they have benefited.

Q. Tell us about your buddy and/or mentoring system you have in place.

A. The pilot group was set up in mid 2013 to look at the new model of the level 3 qualification that Dee Hyde (who was our professional development manager) had written for Community Connections – The Community Connections Learning Programme -CCLP. We discussed what learning for learners looked like and the importance of how CCLP would look. e.g. What were the most important policies needed to be covered first and how they were to be put into each book to make it flow? We also discussed the role of the mentor and what this would look like.

The implementation of mentors began in 2014. This coincided with Dee creating CCLP and also allowed for a professional development opportunity for staff to be able to become a learning mentor. Mentors would be given designated hours, as agreed with Dee, to support new learners on a weekly/fortnightly basis. This role has grown and evolved over the past year, due to staff growth and streamlining processes to make things flow better, mentors are now required to meet with new staff three times during completion of book 1 (orientation book) and these meetings are compulsory for staff.

Q. What was the motivation for setting up this support system?

A. At Community Connections we are motivated to be the best we can for the people we support. All professional development including completing the level three qualification can assist our team to do this. We also believe that professional development is one of the ways that we can augment the support worker role, so providing mentoring can help people keep on track and motivated.

CCLP plays an important part in our orientation process so we like to get people started as soon as possible. This means that our new staff can quickly become familiar with our policies and procedures and how we go about our support.

Having a learning mentor there from the start helps to get the process started. We have found that if people put off starting, they find it hard to catch up and meet deadlines.

We have found that learner who continue to engage with learning mentors complete the training more quickly than those that do not. Also, when people engage in mentors their answers are more likely to be on the right track- i.e. the questions and what is required in the content of the answer is more accurately interpreted.

We have also found that engagement with mentors and the enthusiasm when engaging in learning is often reflected in the support that people give when they are working with people in the community

Our learning mentors play an important part in the organisation. They are respected by the staff and management. The role is also an opportunity for members of the team to take on extra responsibility and develop new skills; or potentially a new career path.

Q. Have you tried to buddy up staff who have completed a Careerforce qualification with those who are just starting?

A. New staff generally buddy up with staff when they begin supporting someone. We encourage them to talk to them about CCLP. We also encourage people to set up learning groups with other learners to keep themselves on track.

Different staff learn in different ways. Some people just prefer to do it by themselves without anyone looking over their shoulder and without assistance from others. However, others really enjoy the support, and find it invaluable.

We receive lots of positive feedback about our learning mentors.

We have learning mentors in each region which is useful as they often know the staff member and have an idea of who they support and the type of people they support. This is useful for prompting some ideas and allowing the learners to find the answers themselves.

Q. What do you think are the benefits of setting up a buddy/mentoring system for staff and for the organisation?

The mentoring system has supported our team to complete the training more quickly and in a more connected way which means that they are able to offer the better assistance to people that they support

It has helped put all the theory in to actual practice in order to obtain good results for the people we support.

For more information about setting up buddy and mentoring systems, we encourage you to talk to your Careerforce Workplace Advisor.