Make a plan
If you have training goals, you need to identify what your mentoree needs to learn and what direction their development might take. You should also discuss with them their current and projected role in the organization.
Based on the results of your discussion, do a training needs analysis. Simply put, find the gap between what they can do now and what they need to be able to do at the end of the mentoring process. This might include observing and evaluating specific on-the-job procedures and analysing what they are doing (e.g. what is it that isn't working?).
Check that you are the right person for that student. You need the right subject matter expertise and your personalities need to reasonably compatible. You may have to accept students whose personalities are not the perfect fit for you, but you should be wary of accepting a one-on-one student that clearly won't work. Besides, you should meet in an open, visible location if the student is the opposite gender.
What is the purpose?
Why is it there? What goals is it trying to achieve? Do the various people have the same set of goals? For example, the purpose or goals might be one or more of the following:
- introduce new technology
- provide a new product or service
- take a new organizational direction
- manage workplace change
- train people for new positions or job roles
- address an identified skills gap
- meet OHS requirements
- improve quality
- provide a traineeship or apprenticeship
- develop career paths for employees
Clarify exactly the educational goal
The goal need to be clearly focused. Discuss it with the student and write it down. It should be written in the form of "At the end of this series, you will be able to ..." This is not as easy as it sounds, and it will probably take several drafts. Even then they might not be perfectly clear. It is quite common to adjust them later as you better understand the topic
Writing the skill as a set of steps is usually much more difficult than it looks. Try these hints:
- Start with what you want the student to learn and why.
- State each step in one simple sentence of no more than ten words. Don’t try and explain everything at this stage.
- Put the steps in an order that makes sense to your student, not just to you. The steps in a "how-to" are usually in only one order.
- Some steps might be only "if necessary." Your students need to check whether they need to do that step, but it might not be necessary.
- You will probably have some complicated exceptions, so leave them until afterwards so your students can get the basic steps right first.
You will need to look though your list of steps and revise it until it is right. Even then, you won’t really know until you try it with a student. But it’s easy to cover those mistakes in a friendly one-to-one discussion.
What do they need to know to do each step?
Write down anything that the student needs to know to do each step.
- Don’t explain lots of things that won’t help the students do that step. It is tempting to include lots of interesting and "nice to know" stuff that the student doesn’t need, but you should leave it out. It's hard, but learn to discipline yourself.
- Do include the things that go wrong and what to do about each one.
Check the student’s job description
As the next step, find out what the student’s job description should be and get it written down. Make sure that the boundaries are clear; students need to be willing to do what needs to be done, so overly restrictive job descriptions are frustrating for employers. On the other hand, you need to provide some delineation to prevent students being exploited or diverted into too many tasks that are outside their program.
The student’s job description should address work activities, areas of responsibility, processes to carry out work, accountability, use of equipment, projects, and schedules.
Check the student's job description to plan the learning experience. A list of ideals is not very helpful; the plan needs to be practical enough to implement. (This plan has also been called in the jargon a "work-based learning pathway.")
- Identify any specific learning goals and write them down
- Identify activities to be included in the learning process
- Put the program into a series of steps that start with the simpler tasks and progress in increments to the more advanced.
- Will experienced co-workers and experts give the students guidance? If so, how will they do it? Will the students feel comfortable with them?
- Will they get enough opportunity to follow the example of experienced co-workers and experts?
- What opportunities for practice will there be?
- When is an appropriate time for the student to observe and talk to others at work?
- Will the students be able to rotate between several jobs?
You will find that you need to talk to some people on some of these points, for example, managers, experienced co-workers and experts will each have a part to play. While things must be tentative at the planning stage, having people in on the planning will make the decision to implement much easier.
At this stage, you need to identify the kinds of supervision that you will need. You must normally have at least a training program supervisor and a local workplace supervisor. You will probably need a skills development mentor, and you might also need a personal mentor, depending on the industry.
In your preparation, ask, "Will the student reach the learning goals with this job description?" You will need to analyze work practices and routines to determine whether they are effective for reaching learning goals. You will need to consider factors such as:
- Work timelines
- Performance expectations
- Organizational strategies
- How work is organized, including its structures and systems
- Changes in the organization
- Multi-skilling expectations
- Operational or organizational guidelines
- OHS issues
- Work demarcations and industrial relations concerns
- Who is the workplace supervisor? Does he/she have the skills to supervise and support a student?
You may need to propose changes to make the students program more effective. Many changes might be small, practical adjustments that do not affect others. However, some proposed changes might mean that you have some homework to do:
- Are there any OHS implications?
- Are there any industrial relations implications? Does it contravene particular awards or workplace agreements? Will the industrial relations situation ensure fairness of learning opportunities?
- Who will need to approve of any changes before you can go ahead? Who else needs to be consulted or informed? What needs to be put in writing?
About working with external providers and contracts
Does your program use an external training provider or any other contractual requirements? These may provide off-the-job class work, training on equipment from an equipment supplier, online learning, conferences, seminars or workshops. For example,
- WELL training is a federally funded program for Workplace English Literacy and Numeracy.
- RTO staff
- Group Training Company staff (these organise traineeships and apprenticeships)
If so, contact the provider and find out who you should liaise with. Contact the person to integrate workplace training with the external component. Keep in contact to monitor the effectiveness of the arrangement.
You should know by now who should approve of the plan before you can go ahead and what needs to be put in writing. Get agreement to implement the plan.
Part of your planning is liaison with various people. Depending on the program, these may include management in the workplace’s organization, . Get their agreement on the program before you go further.
In your plan
When you have worked out how the program will work, document it in a training plan. (And in an RTO, it must be written down; your RTO probably uses a form or template.) You might want to include any of the following:
- explicit expectations/purpose
- a specific time and place for meeting
- well-defined objectives
- problems (past, present, future) that may constrain achievement of the objectives
- clear statement of what the coach/mentor would do
- goals set by the organization
- goals that you and your mentoree set
- when you expect to reach those goals
- your expected time commitments
- your meeting arrangements (face-to-face, distance, email)
Discuss the goals with the student's supervisor. If you are teaching workplace skills, check that the student will get enough support and encouragement from his/her supervisor. You might also need do discuss any particular ways that tasks need to be allocated to fit training.
In practicum-driven cases, you might need to use a Learning Contract for each student. In many cases, it will be the plan. It should be written down.
This is a clear record of what the student is intending to learn in a given period. As a contract, it is a commitment on both sides. The form should be filled in with copies to both the student and the coordinator/director. In the cases of apprenticeships and traineeships, you should check specific requirements with your program coordinator.
If you use a Learning Contract, it should:
- list clearly work/ministry responsibilities
- cover all they need to learn in the timeframe (e.g. one semester)
- commit supervisor and students to regular contact
- list any other planned leaning tasks (including the probability of workshops)
- fit their personal schedules, given that some adjustments and sacrifices might need to be made.
- fit their individual characteristics and abilities
- be achievable but also stretch them
- identify person(s) giving supervision and help
Several important points:
- Achieving the best contract may involve negotiation.
- If student will be assessed, the tasks for which students are responsible should be highly consistent with the skills to be assessed.
- Students need to be as accountable for what they do as if they were being employed, even if they are volunteers.
Check the plan
Evaluate the plan. Some of these criteria may be relevant for evaluating the plan:
- Does the plan cover a broad enough range of skills?
- Does the plan cover skills in sufficient depth?
- Does the plan include of a range of both routine and non-routine activities?
- Are activities appropriately sequenced?
- Is there sufficient learning and practice time?
- How well does the relationship between workplace learning and external provider courses work?
- Does the program address and language, literacy and numeracy needs?
At this stage you may want to fix anything that looks like it won’t work. When you’re happy with the plan, you’re ready to go to the next step.
You will need to write a plan for your sessions. Use this as a guide:
- Plan the beginning of the first session
- Explain your goals to the student.
- Tell your student how you will teach the course.
- Discuss any ground rules (e.g. how you will communicate outside meetings and how available you can be) and negotiate realistic expectations.
- Fill in the learning agreement if you will use one
- Go though the OHS rules and ensure their health and safety.
- Make a start on the steps.
- Have a written plan for each session and review it afterwards. Use a basic sequence for each session:
- Ask how they have been going.
- Tell them what you are going to do today.
- Show them how to do it in clear steps, and explain it as you go. Be clear.
- Answer any questions.
- Ask them questions to see if they understand it.
- Check that they understand it.
- Let them try to do it, and explain what they are doing.
- Give them opportunity to practice it and to ask questions.
- Give them constructive feedback.
- Plan ways for them to get more practice between sessions.
- Review your session plan afterwards. What did you get right? What would you do differently next time?