Monday, April 11, 2005

Mentoring as a Workforce Development Strategy

In a Sunday, April 10, 2005 Chicago Tribune article titled "Workforce needs polish, U.S. businesses declare", the secretary-treasurer of the New York State AFL-CIO was quoted as saying, "If we infuse education and job-training with an emphasis on 'employability skills,' then we develop workers who not only can get jobs, they can keep them as well."

That's a message the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been saying for more than a decade. We believe these skills need to be mentored, not just taught in short classroom sessions. Furthermore, we believe that youth living in innercity poverty struggle to succeed in school and jobs because there are too few adults who have jobs and careers in diverse industries modeling the expectation that everyone works, and that there are many career opportunities available to those who develop their personal, academic and employment skills.

While the Tribune article shows the traditional approach of business and schools lobbying legislatures to develop and fund such initiatives, the T/MC believes that business has the most to gain or lose from any delay in the development of comprehensive mentoring-to-career strategies that parallel higher academic goals.

I encourage you to visit the Tutor/Mentor Institute section of and read some of the short power point essays. From these you'll see that our focus is on helping comprehensive, volunteer based tutor/mentor programs be in all the places where they are needed and that we serve as an intermediary connecting people, ideas and resources from all over the world. In one power point we illustrate a PUSH and PULL strategy. Parents, teachers, tutors, mentors, coaches are all PUSHING kids to maximize their potential. If these resources are available consistently in the lives of kids, there's a good chance most will respond.

However, in neighborhoods of high poverty, most kids don't consistently have access to adult who are PUSHING them to do their best. Even when such programs, like exist, we compete against negative traditions and influences such as welfare, gangs, illegal income habits, etc. that reduce our influence as youth grow older. In these communities a vocational mentoring strategy needs to be in place, led by industry, unions, chambers of commerce, etc. Such a strategy uses business resources (people, ideas, technology, dollars, jobs) to create a PULL system, that reaches kids as early as first grade and stays connected with them in age appropriate mentoring, job shadowing, internships, etc. until the youth is an adult and in a job/career.

Such programs are needed in every major city of the world. If we wait for the school bureaucracy to recognize this as a responsibility, or if we wait for elected leaders to make this public policy, we'll still have this need 50 years from now and America may be a second class economy. Business must take the lead, innovating ways to reach kids in every neighborhood with programs that mentor kids through school and careers.

While the Internet can connect the T/MC with others around the world who want to learn about this vision, or who already incorporate these ideas in their own work, local intermediaries are also needed to lead and implement this vision in their own community, with their own business and universities as partners. While T/MC maps point to Chicago, Philadelphia maps should point to Philadelphia and Miami Maps should point to Miami.

Instead of leaders of networks and individual programs constantly competing with each other for resources, I want to create a meeting place on the Internet where we can talk of ways of working together to increase resources for each of us. In such communities we'll look at what works and try to innovate ways to make what works available in this network of tutoring/mentoring and education to careers programs.

No matter where you are in the world, you have the potential to be gathering people in your network to participate in this discussion, for the purpose of building more and better places on the East Coast, West Coast, in the UK or in Australia, where good programs meet more youth.

As we locate programs working with youth and do more to help them get visibility, volunteers, dollars, technology, ideas, etc., we'll begin to stimulate the growth of better programs and that will soon accelerate the movement of more kids through school who are prepared for careers.

Are you already involved in such work? Let's find a way to connect.

Dan Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection

No comments: