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Apprenticeships toolkit: Mentoring

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What is it?

Apprenticeships are positions of paid work in a firm including training provided by the employer, typically leading to a formal qualification or title. They are provided in different forms across a variety of countries. Mentoring is the provision of support by one person (the mentor) to another less qualified person (mentee) normally working in the same field or sharing similar experiences. A mentor can act as a guide for the apprentice, providing them with advice on completing their apprenticeship as well as future career options and progress. The nature of the mentor/mentee relationship varies from programme to programme, and can be tailored to suit the needs of participants, e.g. mentors may be chosen to be from the same community as mentees.

How effective are support measures?

We found one study that looks at the effect of mentoring on completion, finding positive effects. We found one study that looks at the effect on uptake, suggesting that the availability of a mentor does not increase the likelihood that firms can fill apprenticeship vacancies.

One study looked at the effect of mentoring on improving skills levels and on measures of wellbeing. It found that mentoring during an apprenticeship may help to develop the skills level of apprentices but has much less impact on other factors such as self-esteem, well-being, alcohol or drug use.

How secure is the evidence?

This toolkit summarises the available ex-post (i.e. after introduction) evaluations on the impact of mentoring. We focused on evaluation evidence from OECD countries, in English. We considered any study that provided before and after evidence; or cross-sectional studies that compared individuals receiving support to those not receiving support (or that compared those receiving different levels of support). We also included more robust studies that compared changes to participants with a suitable control group. That is, we included evidence that scored 2 or higher on the Maryland Scale.

Generally, the evidence base on mentoring is very weak. More rigorous studies are required. We found no systematic reviews of effectiveness and no meta-analysis.

We found 3 studies that looked at the impact of mentoring support. One of these studies looked at uptake, one at completion and the third at other apprentice outcomes. These studies considered apprenticeship programmes in Australia, Sweden, the United States and Switzerland.

Is mentoring cost-effective?

None of the three studies provide any assessment of the costs of mentoring provision, or of the wider economic cost-effectiveness of mentoring support through apprenticeships.

Things to consider

  • Should mentoring support be focussed on disadvantaged groups? Two of the studies we found that showed some positive effects looked at programmes that were targeted at disadvantaged groups.
  • What is the objective of providing mentoring support? Mentors may be most effective in addressing issues directly related to the apprenticeship rather than personal or social issues.
  • Are there ways of providing mentoring support that could increase effectiveness? Our toolkit on counselling in employment training suggests that mandatory counselling may be less effective than voluntary counselling. It may be the case that these findings generalise to mentoring for apprenticeships.
  • How could we better pilot and test the effectiveness of mentoring? It would be relatively easy to undertake high quality evaluation that would provide us with better evidence on the effectiveness of mentoring in supporting apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships toolkit: Mentoring