In every professional field mentoring is a serious issue. The organizations that pursue future improvement and development focus on mentoring by means of inviting mentoring professionals from the outside or training their own mentors. Mentoring is a rather complex subject and often takes serious preparation from the side of a mentor, certain skills and initiative. Just being an experienced professional is not enough for becoming a good mentor for the beginners. Mentoring is a responsible activity which requires high levels of patience, professionalism, ethics, enthusiasm, tolerance and skills. Even though most of the organizations mention highly developed mentoring and training programs, in practice mentoring is still a new territory for most of them and often the professionals cannot properly explain what actually makes a good mentor and what efficient mentoring should include. The field of engineering is one of the professional spheres where young specialists are in high demand since there is a growing skills shortage in this field. This way, to be able to function effectively in the future engineering companies are to take the issue of skills and professionals scarcity seriously and improve the mentoring methods in order to prepare highly qualified workers for the future.
The word “mentor” comes from ancient Greek mythology, Mentor was the name of the teacher of Odysseus’s son (Miller 3). Today this word is used to refer to a wise and reliable supervisor. First of all, mentoring is based on relationship between a mentor and a protégé. The success of their interaction comes only in cases of the collaboration of both sides. It is very important that both the mentor and their protégé are enthusiastic about the teaching/learning process. If at least one of them does not have the desire to participate the whole concept of mentoring is undermined and the process would not work (Miller 3). During the process of mentoring the wisdom and experience are passed from one worker to another where both of the participants share the same goal. The teacher is the giving side, while the learner is the receiver. The success of the learner is the success of the mentor, and the other way round. Besides, the process of mentoring is educational for the teaching side. Passing the knowledge the mentor learns about the efficiency of various strategies and methods, improves their capacity to understand the needs of their learner and the ways that maximize the teaching process.
Just like in any progressive profession, in engineering is it crucial that young specialists receive sufficient amount of practice and spend a significant amount of time out in the field. Engineering is a field that is constantly evolving and improving. In many cases the most progressive knowledge and the newest information cannot be found in books, but is shared by the practitioners. This is why is it vital that an engineer is flexible and ready to learn. Even the most experienced and knowledgeable engineers today constantly learn new things in order to remain in demand as high-performers and true professionals. Certain kinds of skills and knowledge in this profession can only be obtained through practice, observation, active participation. Young professionals who enter the field right after graduating are equipped with a good amount of theoretical knowledge, yet there are a great number of things that cannot be taught in schools. Besides, each particular workplace and sphere is specific and filled with its own specialties. This is why in the very beginning of their careers young professionals need to be supervised and mentored for at least two of three years.
Mentoring is a long lasting process. First of all, it requires a certain level of trust and understanding between the protégé and the mentor which can only be developed over some time (Miller 3). Secondly, both sides of the process need to learn each other’s styles and characters in order to be able to cooperate effectively. Finally, since the field of engineering is complex and multidimensional, the whole process of training and preparation will take quite some time. Moreover, the protégé is trained to become a future mentor and be able to teach new specialists, so the mentor does not only pass the professional knowledge but shares their experience in teaching.
Engineering is a dangerous field where mistakes often may cause injuries or serious accidents. Yet, this does not mean that inexperienced workers should not be able to practice. On the contrary, only practice will turn rookies into professionals. This means that new practitioners should be allowed to apply their knowledge of the field fully, make decisions and apply them being aware of the risks. Engineering is a field where each practitioner has to deal with pressure and multiple responsibilities which requires a high level of competence and confidence. These qualities can only be developed through practice and training. Supervision is necessary to avoid serious mistakes, at the same time the mentors should not restrict their protégés in too many ways. Of course, the responsibility for the errors of the young professional often falls on the shoulders of their mentors. This is why the teacher and the learner should develop a tight connection and trust allowing them both to perform their roles effectively without risking each other’s careers.
In order to provide the most effective communication and optimize the learning process the mentor is to offer all of their experience to the protégé and become an “open book”. The mentor is to encourage the learner to be curious, experiment and ask questions. It is important not only to pass the knowledge from a senior practitioner to a younger one but also to help the beginner to find their own working style, be an independent learner, engage into their own research, be enthusiastic and demonstrate initiative. In order to achieve this, the mentor is to make the protégé feel comfortable at the workplace, inspire them instead of creating strict rules for the training sessions. The learning process should be active and involve not only verbal and visual information but actual practice.
During the training the young practitioners will face tasks they would find difficult. Once a mentor is asked from help they should not just give the right answer to the protégé or complete the task for them. On the contrary, the mentor is to lead the learner through the task asking a lot of questions to facilitate comprehension integrated into active practice so that the protégé memorized and understand the situation deeply.
Mentor systems are necessary in the organizations focused on innovation and creativity, they help to develop balanced workplace relationships and culture, provide young professionals with wisdom and perspective and make the training of qualified workers an ongoing process at all times so that the organization never stops being progressive (IPENZ 4).
IPENZ. Mentoring Guidelines. 2011. Web.
Miller, Duane K. Mentoring in the Engineering Profession. n. d. Web. 2015.