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    Union Mentors

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    The Union Mentor is the key factor in a successful Student Internship-Union Mentoring Program .  The mentor serves as a guide, a coach, a teacher, and an ongoing resource for the student intern.  Both students and parents have sometimes described the working/coaching relationship between mentor and student intern as life-changing in multiple positive ways. 

    Union leaders should recruit and select workplace mentors based on their skills and diligence on their job, their interest or experience in working with young people, and their engagement with the union.  First and foremost, the mentor must want to serve in this capacity for a student intern.  Second, the mentor must be willing to attend a day-long Mentor Training Program (during the work day) prior to the start of any internship program in order to fully understand the scope of the program and his or her responsibilities as a mentor for a teenage worker.  As a shorthand rule of thumb, union leaders should recruit as mentors only those workers with whom they would want their own teenage children to work.

    Because it is expected that the union mentors may have vacation time or other days off during the summer or may be called away from their core work at any point in time, it is optimal for each mentor to have one or more back-up mentors who also attend mentor training and are available to serve as an alternate mentor whenever needed.  In some workplaces, labor and management plan from the beginning for two workers to share equally in the mentoring of one intern during the course of the internship.

    Mentor Roles and Responsibilities

    These are the basic expectations of all union mentors:

    • Participate in mentor training;
    • Serve as a student’s mentor: Provide daily guidance, education, hands-on work experience to intern; assist intern in development of technical, communications, and problem-solving skills; and engage in ongoing dialogue with the intern about the union, the collective-bargaining agreement, and the benefits and responsibilities of union membership;
    • Make alternative mentoring arrangements for the student intern, when necessary, to accommodate the primary mentor’s absence;
    • Coordinate opportunities for interns to see – or possibly work in – other areas of the workplace, in consultation with other workers and supervisors as appropriate;
    • Engage in problem-solving as needed, using appropriate channels (it is desirable to try to solve problems, first and foremost, through the “union family”);
    • Participate in key program activities, including orientation, safety training, Labor History Day, closing event;
    • Provide feedback that will assist both union and management in program improvement.

    In Their Own Voices

    Hear some comments from  mentors in New England who participated in the initial (2000) IBEW rollout of the Student Internship-Union Mentoring Program model — in collaboration with Verizon Communications. 

    “Dimensions of Mentoring” Training Handbook for Union Mentors

    An adequate training and orientation session for participating mentors is essential to a successful Student Internship-Union Mentoring Initiative. The “Dimensions of Mentoring” curriculum provides the core content for a day-long mentor training program for union mentors and back-up mentors. Any mentor training session should also include time for discussion with management representatives to ensure that all partners – from union leaders to management personnel to front-line supervisors to union mentors – are fully informed about all aspects of internship scheduling and logistics and therefore are on the same wavelength in terms of program implementation.