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What Makes A Great Mentoring Program?
Highlights of USA Study Tour November 1999
by
Lesley Tobin Dusseldorp Skills Forum April 2000

In global terms mentoring is a relatively new concept in Australia. Whilst there are some programs which target young people at risk, most mentoring programs in Australia focus on young people who have by conventional standards already made a successful transition from school, for example mentoring for first year university students or mentoring in the workplace for new employees.

With the development of a pilot program on the Central Coast of NSW (Plan-It Youth) which matches young people at risk of not completing their education with community mentors, the Dusseldorp Skills Forum began exploring the Australian experience in mentoring- searching for other programs of a similar nature, to learn from their experiences.

Lack of information, resources and the relative inexperience in mentoring in Australia led the Forum to examine program practices in other parts of the world with more history/experience in this field. In USA, for example, mentoring has been practised for over 80 years and there are numerous examples of programs which target youth at risk. Many of these programs support large numbers of matches eg the Big Brothers Big Sisters program supports over 75,000 matches. Given this experience and the successes of many of the programs, United States was the focus of the study tour.

The study focused on:

    • the target group of mentees
    • recruitment of mentors
    • funding arrangements
    • screening of mentors
    • training of mentors
    • program evaluation, and
    • resources.

The following information on programs visited, highlights points of interest as well as points of difference, in the way programs are established and managed on a daily basis.

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