MentorTrain – Training and Equipping Mentors in SMEs to provide Quality Apprenticeships

The European Council’s recommendation on a framework for quality and apprenticeships, designed to help young people enter the world of work outline 14 criteria to define quality and effective apprenticeships, ensuring both the development of job-related skills and the personal development of apprentices. The third criterion highlights the role of pedagogical support in successful mentorships, stating that “In-company trainers should be designated and cooperate closely with VET Providers and Teachers . Teachers and trainers (mentors) should be supported to update their skills.”

In its guiding principles, the Thematic Working Group on Trainers in VET does not advise on having a formal qualification as a requirement for mentors, but suggests that they should have the possibility to acquire and constantly update the necessary training-related competences to oversee the practical training and acquisition of work experience of apprentices/trainees in the workplace.

MentorTrain therefore aims to create a platform for imparting pedagogical skills to mentors, particularly experienced workers from SMEs who may not necessarily have relevant teaching experience. Our focus is on mentors in companies who are working with professional higher educational institutions at EQF levels 5-7.

MentorTrain, aims to define the specific competences required by early-stage and experienced mentors, and use this to define learning activities which can be used to acquire these competences, structured as a common curriculum for mentorship within PHE-apprenticeships.

These will be used to create a course aimed at prospective and early stage mentors, made up of a set of modular online micro-learning units, each of which will allow participants to master a specific competence relevant to quality mentoring.

To assist experience mentors in designing detailed training-plans for specific placements, the consortium will author a methodological guide on applying “A Design-Thinking Approach for Defining Placements”, which guide will be piloted by mentors in four countries, across a total of 12 placements.

We also envisage the creation of a practice-sharing platform whereby mentors will be able to upload and share placement-plans created using the above approach, and re-use plans created by other mentors, so as to introduce an element of collegiality into placement design, similar to the collegiality which is so critical to quality teaching in higher education.

Finally, the consortium intends to supplement all the work done by creating a resource pack of templates and forms which can help mentors standardise each part of the mentorship process. In particular, such a pack would focus on specifying models for specifying:
• periodic teaching, training and/or demonstration activities to be held by the mentor;
• periodic feedback and evaluation activities;
• formal review meetings, including participants and timeline;
• the general objective of the placements;
• specific tasks (with clear outcomes) to achieve that objective;

The partnership of the project consists mainly of Institutions of Professional Higher Education, and European/National networks of Institutions of Professional Higher Education. The project has been designed to address current and predicted needs of mentors from companies working with such institutions, and the outputs are intended to be used directly by these institutions and by their stakeholders.
– Professional Higher Education Institutions will be able to improve the quality of the apprenticeships they offer, by assuring that mentors delivering the apprenticeships have appropriate pedagogical competence and by ensuring that placements are designed using a quality-controlled process;
– Enterprises, and in particular SMEs, will find it easier to onboard and manage apprentices, since they will be able to refer their nominated mentors to a training scheme to prepare them for the role. In addition, enterprises will benefit from the design-thinking approach to placements, which will allow them to identify the problems they have when hiring recent graduates, and propose learning activities within the placements that would address these issues;
– Prospective mentors within enterprises will be able to asses their own readiness to take on mentors, as well as show their competences in the area for purposes of promotion, with the use of the competence framework for mentors
– Students of Professional Higher Education will be the ultimate beneficiaries of these activities, benefiting from a more uniform experience across placements, and consequently, higher quality education & training and better prospects for employment at the end of the mentorships