What is Mentoring?

Mentoring provides a structured and trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement (adapted from Mentor/National Mentoring Partnership and Robyn Hartley’s “Young people and mentoring: towards a national strategy” 2004 Report).

The mentor is not a replacement for a parent, nor are they a counsellor or teacher. They are a sounding board and confidant to the young person.

How Does Mentoring Help?

There has been a great deal of international research carried out on the benefits of mentoring to a young person. Research by Joseph P. Tierney and Jean Baldwin Grossman (Making a difference: an impact study of Big Brother/Big Sisters) and David L Dubois et al (‘Effectiveness of mentoring programs for youth: A meta-analytical review’, American Journal of Community Psychology), has shown that young mentees are:

  • Less likely to become involved in criminal activity
  • Less likely to become involved in drug taking and alcohol abuse and
  • Less likely to leave school early
  • More likely to have improved academic performance
  • Have better relationships with their teachers and family compared to their peers who are not mentored.

What are the Different Types of Mentoring?

Mentoring can focus on particular areas including:

  • Social and emotional wellbeing. Mentoring to assist young people to increase their self-esteem, self-efficacy and resilience by actively supporting their social and emotional wellbeing. The focus includes improving both the young person’s life skills and the positive connections they have with their community.
  • Individual talents and leadership. Mentoring to assist young people to further develop their individual talents and/or leadership skills in a specific area (e.g. sports, photography, drama) in order for them to reach their full potential.
  • Identity, culture and faith. Mentoring to assist young people to grow in their understanding of their faith and/or culture and cultural identity. The program actively supports young people to be proud and confident of their identity and culture and to be able to exercise this in their community.
  • Youth justice and crime prevention. Mentoring to assist young people to avoid anti-social and offending behaviours by encouraging connectedness with positive elements in their community and increasing protective factors.
  • Education, training and employment. Mentoring to assist young people to positively engage in and maintain their participation in education, training and employment. These programs assist young people to develop a vision for their future and provide support to achieve their education, training and career goals.

There are two types of delivery methods:

  • Face to face. The mentoring sessions are held in person, face to face.
  • E-mentoring. Electronic mentoring uses technology to connect the mentor with the young person. This can be text based or utilising Voice over IP (Internet Protocol) and video technology.

There are also different types of mentoring relationships:

  • One to one. One mentor matched with one young person.
  • Group. One mentor matched with up to four young people (If the ratio is greater than 1:4, this is no longer considered quality mentoring^).
  • Team. Two or more mentors matched with one young person.

The mentoring relationship can be take place in different settings:

  • School. Mentoring occurs on the school premises.
  • Community. Mentoring occurs within the local community, utilising community spaces such as parks, cafés, libraries etc.
  • Workplace. Mentoring occurs on the business premises.
  • Other Site. Mentoring occurs in other site based locations including but not limited to universities, juvenile justice centres, youth centres, football clubs etc.

^ Rhodes, J.E. (2002). Stand by me: The risks and rewards of mentoring today’s youth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; Grossman.J.B and Bulle B.A (2006) ‘Review of what youth programs do to increase the connectedness of youth with adults’, Journal of Adolescent Heath, Vol39, pg. 788-799; Rhodes. J.E and Dubois, D.L (2006) ‘Understanding and facilitating the youth mentoring movement’, Social Policy Report v20, no.3