Why this is Important
Gen Z comes to the workforce a wide set of new technology skills, determination and passion, among many other factors. Older employees can benefit from the connectivity, flexibility and creativity that are unique to this generation. These youth are still young, however, and have a lot to learn from their older mentors that will help better integrate them successfully in the formal working world. As these youth become a larger part of the emerging labor force, business must plan for Gen Z’s entry and the succession of the Baby Boomers as they retire. Mentorship programs not only get youth interested in and prepared for work in new fields, it introduces fresh skills and attitudes that help businesses flourish in a changing economic atmosphere.
Three million young people are in formal one-to-one mentoring relationships in the United States, a six-fold increase from just a decade ago. Mentoring best practices run the gamut and cannot be easily generalized. Organizations themselves create formal mentoring programs to increase productivity and career development, higher education institutions often create mentoring programs on campus or with members in the community. Regardless, successful mentoring programs do not just happen – it takes time, attention and resources to make the process work. Moreover, excellent programs benefit both the mentor and the mentee.
Sarah Schmidt volunteers with Neighbor to Neighbor, an organization that pairs each mentor with a child who is below grade level in school. Every Wednesday she mentors Keayon, a fourth grader, and they work on various Language Arts topics for an hour after school. For her, however, the mentorship doesn’t just stop at the classroom. “Although the mentoring program only requires one hour a week at the facility, I felt this was not enough and frequently take Keayon out on the weekends. I have benefitted immensely from mentoring him… It is incredible to meet a young man who is so grounded in spite of the adversity he has faced throughout his life. He instills a greater appreciation in me for the things that I have so often taken for granted.”
Current Context in NC
North Carolina has a variety of organizations that provide mentoring relationships for youth to help them develop skill sets both personally and professionally that will help them later in life.
Organizations such as the Greensboro’s Growing Entrepreneurs by Mentoring Students (GEMS) program and Raleigh’s Architectural, Construction and Engineering (ACE) industry-specific apprenticeship programs offer youth hands-on opportunities to develop workforce skills. Similarly, these programs create close one-on-one relationships between experienced professionals and young people. Investing in such programs encourage youth to embrace these fields and provides new, trained and creative talent for the future workforce.
Mentorship programs are not only about increasing youth’s economic potential, but also improving their (and other generations’) overall wellbeing. For example, the NC Mentoring Partnership aims to increase and improve the total number of mentorship programs in the state so that youth across North Carolina have access to support, counsel and a positive structure as they develop into the state’s next wave of adults. These mentoring programs are particularly important for at risk youth who need good role models that may be lacking in their current family situations.