As a training and technical assistance provider, I’ve spent the better part of 16 years in mentoring helping programs shore up their weak spots. Sometimes that has to do with program practice, such as codifying staff tasks into an operations manual or revamping a recruitment campaign; other times it may be infrastructure related: a new database or a fresh set of evaluation tools.
But a lot of the time, programs mostly need professional development for their staff. Staff members may need to become better trainers, learn more about the youth they serve, or practice skills for working with families or supporting struggling mentors. And the frequent staff turnover in the mentoring field only exacerbates this, with a constant need for new staff to learn the basics of good mentoring practice.
I recently asked three diverse mentoring support organizations what they get asked to provide most often. Their responses highlighted some clear gaps in the field and some surprising trends:
- Volunteer recruitment, mentor training, and match support were, unsurprisingly common topics for all three organizations.
- There was a lot of interest in program evaluation, with an emphasis on proving programs’ theory of change or making the case to funders that the program is “evidence-based.”
- Sessions on fundraising and sustainability were also in high demand.
- But the most interesting frequent requests had mostly to do with improving programs’ ability to effectively serve their clients: cultural competency, parent engagement, and working with special youth populations (foster youth, gang-involved, ADHD, etc.). This indicates, at least to me, that the mentoring field is recognizing that there is a disconnect between service providers and recipients that is getting in the way of better outcomes.
But what about your program? What are your biggest professional development needs? What training or information could help them do their jobs better? Please take a second to vote for your top three needs in the poll below. If your biggest needs are not represented, or if you have more to say about your poll selections, please let us know in the comments. We’ll use these responses to try and emphasize relevant content in future Chronicle posts.
[Photo courtesy of celt.keene]