Mentors ignite the spark for trainee success

10 May 2021

Canterbury dairy farmer and mentor Wendy Main loves helping others to develop a passion for working in agriculture and achieve their goals.

Wendy is a volunteer on the Primary ITO Mentoring Programme where she sits alongside trainees who often struggle to complete the theory part of their qualification.

She’s well placed to support others with 30 years of farming experience, having completed training courses herself, been an AgriLearn teacher and supported her staff through additional training.

“The trainees I help often did not do well at school and feel they can’t do it. By sitting beside them they seem to see a way through and it becomes less daunting.”

“It is most satisfying to see students develop an understanding of what is required and complete and pass assignments. It gives them a confidence boost.”

“It is great to see the “switch” come on and the passion and enthusiasm return.”

The Primary ITO Mentoring Programme is looking for mentors who can give an hour a week to help a young learner to complete the bookwork part of their study.

Since 2012 the programme has assisted around 500 trainees to progress their study and achieve a qualification while they work.

Primary ITO Learning Achievement Manager Marianne Farrell says literacy and numeracy issues affect 50 percent of the primary sector workforce from doing their jobs effectively, achieving qualifications they need in their roles, or to progress to the next level.

Trainees complete the practical study component in their work place and are required to complete the theory part in their own time.

Marianne says that’s where many trainees struggle. Most trainees who need assistance have literacy issues, dyslexia or English as their second language (ESOL), and have struggled in the school system.

“They make comments that they were in the “dumb class” at school. This has affected their learning, their confidence and sometimes their motivation.”

Under the mentoring programme they are buddied up with a mentor who can help organise and motivate them, and support them to complete the paperwork. Mentors support mentees one-on-one or in groups either in person at study nights or online

“This might be the first time someone has taken a real interest in their pathway and sometimes it is the first success that they have had.”

“For example, our trainees who have dyslexia usually know the answers and what they want to say it but it escapes them before they can write it all down. A mentor can listen to their answer and help them to write it.”

For ESOL trainees a mentor will help them understand the context of questions, especially where parochial or “kiwi” terms are used.

Many trainees share that without the support of their mentor, they would not have completed their apprenticeship and progressed their career.

Marianne says it is a very rewarding experience for both the mentors and trainees. “You get a real warm fuzzy feeling from knowing you have helped somebody out and seeing their success, it reflects on you and you feel good about it.”

Mentor Wendy, who’s supported apprentices and staff to the level of the Dairy Industry Award finals and placings, agrees.

Mentors come from all walks of life and are people that enjoy helping others and want to volunteer their time to give back. There are retired people from various backgrounds, literacy and numeracy specialists, rural professionals, accountants, consultants, bankers and current trainees.

Visit our Learner Support page to learn more.