Mentoring Matters Mentor Training

International youth mentoring research tends to suggest that the more thorough the training, the greater the likelihood of mentors making a positive connection with their mentees and having more meaningful discussions ie, talking about personal problems, difficulties, challenges etc. A number of credible programmes suggest a minimum of 16 hours of mentor training prior to the matching of the mentor with the mentee. Where one is mentoring students in the ‘high risk’ category, the number of hours training could be between 20 and 30.

However, where the emphasis is on the mentor simply being a ‘friend’ to the young person e.g. aged 7 to 13, the training might be about 12 hours (even less) in duration, with more emphasis placed on ongoing training. Much will depend on the overall aims of the particular youth mentoring programme.

From Robin Cox’s mentor training experience, during which time he has tried a number of different options, the most effective training has been that which has been spread over a number of weeks. This gives the mentors a chance to reflect on the content, at the same time deciding for themselves whether or not they are ready to mentor and are prepared to make the commitment required of the program.

The cost of attending a Mentor Training Program will naturally vary from program to program, dependent on available funds, as will the accreditation status of each program.

Since 1999 Robin has run over 80 mentor training programs, attended by over 1,000 mentors. In addition, he has run workshops covering specific mentor-related topics of a shorter duration. The mentor training program training course has been predominantly geared for adult volunteers mentoring adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19. He has also run ‘Spirit of Mentoring’ workshops for teachers.

The complete training course, held over a number of weeks (at the request of the mentors themselves), meets all the criteria of international youth mentoring research. Indeed, it probably goes further than most mentor training programs because of its reflective and experiential nature. Robin believes that no mentor should be allowed to mentor a young person if they are not feeling comfortable with who they are themselves. Young people are vulnerable and need secure and stable mentors to guide them along life’s journey.

A brief outline of ONE process involved in training volunteer adult mentors follows:

REQUIREMENTS: All prospective mentors must meet the following requirements, which are compatible with all credible youth mentoring programs world-wide (requirements will differ from country to country eg, some programs might require mentors to have proof of insurance of a motor vehicle and a Driver’s License if they intend transporting their mentees anywhere):

  • Attend the full Mentor Training Program. If they miss some aspect, the Program Coordinator or another staff employee is responsible for guiding the mentor through the missed session. Program Coordinators should ensure that Mentors are fully briefed on the main aspects of the program prior to the training. A well presented website could assist this process for many mentors.
  • Complete a Police Check (or whatever is required in the Country or State where the mentor program operates).
  • Be recommended by two referees.
  • Have a GP approve suitability to be a mentor to an adolescent (where applicable).
  • Complete a Child, Youth and Family check (where relevant such as in New Zealand).
  • On completion of the Mentor Training Program, attend a one-on-one interview with a Program staff member to review the Mentor Training and discuss aspects of the mentoring journey, as well as giving Program staff an opportunity to decide whether or not the mentor is suitable for mentoring a student in that particular program. Mentors are presented with a Certificate of Attendance at the completion of the Mentor Training program.

AIM OF THE MENTORING MATTERS MENTOR TRAINING PROGRAM: To prepare and equip potential mentors with the knowledge and some of the key skills required if they wish to embark on a mentoring relationship with a young person.

KEY OUTCOMES OF THE MENTORING MATTERS MENTOR TRAINING PROGRAM: This is an experiential, generic course with the following outcomes:

  • an understanding of the qualities and expectations of a mentor – 80% of this course is applicable to any mentoring experience
  • development of key mentoring skills:
    • qualities of a mentor as a person of influence.
    • goal getting and assessing.
    • assisting an adolescent develop a positive self-image.
    • identifying and encouraging the development of resiliency qualities.
    • building relationships with peers, family, other adults.
    • conflict resolution skills.
    • effective communication techniques.
  • an opportunity for personal reflection in some key areas of life’s journey.
  • understanding some of the issues and experiences facing  young people in the 21st Century.
  • understanding the purpose and functioning of the program the mentors are being prepared for. This might involve a guest speaker talking about high risk issues, for example, if this is a major aspect of a particular program.


Further information on all modules covered during the training program is found in the resource book: The Spirit of Mentoring – a Manual for Adult Volunteers, which is given to all participants at the first training session. Throughout the book are numerous mentoring tips to facilitate the mentor/mentee relationship which lies at the heart of the mentoring journey. There is also an extensive Bibliography for those interested in reading more material on mentoring.

The core modules covered, during the 16-hour mentor training program, will include a talk from a member of the Program staff (where relevant), as well as a combination or all of the following modules:

  • Module: Becoming a Mentor
  • Module: Goal Getting
  • Module: Self-concept, adolescent issues and assertive behavior
  • Module: Resiliency
  • Module: Communication
  • Module: Resolving conflicts
  • Module: Mentoring adolescents from high risk environments (where applicable)
  • Module: Course Summary and Evaluation

A written evaluation is completed by all participants at the end of the training.


Supervision of mentors is a vital component of the mentoring journey. Regular contact should be made between the Program Coordinator and both the mentor and the mentee during the early months of the mentoring journey. Mentors should be encouraged to meet weekly with their mentees initially and then fortnightly, though this will depend on the type of program. Most credible mentoring programs suggest a minimum of four to six hours interactive time between mentors and mentees a month. School Based Programs are easier to run, with ongoing supervision relatively easy to undertake if a debrief session is included each time the mentors meet with their mentees.

Many volunteer adult mentors, especially those who are retired, prefer the safety and security of a school environment in which to develop the mentoring relationship.

In addition, ongoing training is crucial to the success of any youth mentoring program. Mentors need an opportunity to reflect on their mentoring skills, to discuss any issues they might be facing during the mentoring journey, as well as the opportunity to listen to visiting speakers who might address topics of relevance to the mentoring journey e.g. drug and alcohol abuse; sexual diseases; community programs; challenges facing adolescents in the 21st Century; the appropriate use of technology, helping a mentee plan a career and so on.

The ongoing mentor training could take a variety of forms:

  • lectures
  • icebreakers/energizers
  • tasks
  • stories
  • large group/ small group/triads/pairs discussion
  • role play
  • an opportunity to listen to a mentor and mentee (perhaps the mentee’s parent/s as well) share their mentoring journey experience (where the program has been in existence for a while)

As part of the supervision and ongoing training, Program Coordinators are encouraged to have some form of evaluation of their program. This is vital for the development of the program, as well as for programs seeking funding support.