The scope of mentoring is perhaps wider than education as understood in its strict formal sense. It must be understood, as in the contest of this topic, to be a pre-employment training of a youth, not a worker, and does not therefore permit post-employment training or on the job training, which mostly involves leadership skills, organisational management, etc. Mentoring, in the contest of this topic, can permit vast variation in meaning but the object of such meanings is geared towards a system of learning, in its practical and theoretical sense, in which a person is guided into an advanced level of reasoning and skill acquisition usually by another person(s) employed or recognised for that purpose. So, mentoring could well involve the formal education systems and the less formal systems like apprenticeship, family education, workshop etc. Mentoring involves learning under somebody and includes carpentry, medical practices, engineering workshops etc.
Obviously, the definition of a youth has remained problematic and has allowed vast variation in age. A youth could simply be defined as a person between the period of childhood and adulthood. According to Benjamin Disraeli, a onetime British Prime Minister, “the youths of a nation are the trustees of posterity”. They are the future of a nation. Along this line, the youths must be empowered and stable enough to become the sentinel of a nation’s future. But we may ask; How can the youths be empowered and employed in the face of unemployment, low performing economy and poor standard of education? such empowerment as it should be understood must mean giving the youths the means and enablement to lead a fulfilled life and obtain peace and sanctity of the mind. We may obviously ask, what is the role of mentoring in securing youth empowerment and employment?
To begin with, a person could be mentored from his family. This is often the case, if the family has a vocational backbone or trade or renders some technical services. In the past, children watched their parents closely and learned from them. Sons were taken to the farm, they learnt how to make yam moulds and stalk them. Daughters learnt the art of cooking by watching their mothers and equally how to plant inferior crops. Hunters took their sons along with them and they learnt the skills of hunting. As is common with each of these instances, a member of the family guides a younger one in an art or trade which he has superior knowledge. Today, this process of learning which empowered our ancestors is still relevant. It is used more in the agrarian societies but not limited to it. Children sometimes learn sewing, carpentry, baking etc, from their parents and other relations. Thus, the child becomes empowered and can become self employed, education notwithstanding.
The schools has become the hub of knowledge of the world. It cuts across the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. The youth is exposed to ideas and guided through an abstract and logical thinking process by teachers dedicated to this task. Most often, students develop likeness for a teacher and makes him a mentor or model to follow. In a boarding school, such a teacher could be the guardian of the student and through this, effective moulding of character and learning attitude is better appreciated. One may be tempted to ask if learning in school involves mentoring. Indeed it does and it goes further than that. Also, in schools, students often get supervisors at their final year to guide them in the art of research and analysis. In fact, this is the best instance of mentoring in the school setting; a conscious guiding of a learner to discover the different ways of expressing what he knows. The medical profession provides another instance of a defined mentoring situation. Medical students are required to learn from another teacher practitioner in a teaching hospital, who guides them in the process of medical analysis.
Another, very obvious instance of mentoring is the situation of apprenticeship. Vocational and engineering skills are better developed through this means and it is not tied to the condition of being educated or not. People learn automobile mechanics, weathering, carpentry, sewing, baking, etc by closely studying under somebody and watching the entire process. Thus, the nation’s unemployment scale is relieved, because some people can easily become self employed. The legal profession is a scenario of advanced apprenticeship. Even after graduating from the law school, a young lawyer will have to accompany a senior lawyer to court and learn the practical essence of the legal profession.
Therefore, mentoring must be understood in a broad sense and differentiated from a role model. We may want to be like somebody, like President Barack Obama, but we need somebody to teach us the way to go about it. Mentoring, thus, becomes a conscious means of inculcating knowledge and developing skills. It allows for a broad definition and application. It involves a one and one process between the mentor and the mentee. The mentoring process thus provides a comfortable interaction process for the development of required skills for work. Mentoring does not, as already shown restrict itself to the classrooms. It allows for the workshops and other skill acquisition centres. It is therefore most apt to say that no individual is born with the necessary knowledge and skills to survive alone without any form of training. It is therefore basic that a youth must be trained, taught, or guided and this is the crust of mentoring, which effectively drives the forces of empowerment and employment.