Why do we need a Mentoring Program?

  • A commitment to support an ongoing process of renewal is vital for building a strong, vibrant, and dynamic union.
  • Nurture and encourage the next generation of activists and open opportunities for members including from equity seeking groups.
  •  Connect members who want to become activists with experienced leadership or even retirees who want to share in the transition of knowledge, skills and insight.

What does the Mentoring Program offer?

  • Enhance knowledge of the union and its history, increase commitment to the union, assist in personal growth, and provide support in avoiding political pitfalls.
  • Create new leadership• Sense of personal satisfaction for mentors• Transfer of knowledge and history from one generation to the next
  • Identify barriers for members of equity seeking groups
  • Support a broader equity agenda

Benefits of Mentorship

  • Enhances collaboration and learning across the union
  • Increases job satisfaction and deepens commitment of participants
  • Builds organizational capacity
  • Helps renew leadership and activist base

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is a professional relationship devoted to developing a person’s career goals. It involves a“mentor” (trusted advisor or teacher) and “mentee” (learner or protégé). Traditionally, people have understood mentoring as a relationship between an older, more experienced mentor and a younger, less experienced colleague. Mentoring, however, can also happen between peers at a similar level within an organization. And it can be a two-way process between individuals of different ages: older mentors can learn new skills from their younger mentees (such as ways to use technology) and come to see the union from a different perspective. This is sometimes called “reverse mentoring.”

"Mentoring has been around as long as civilization. The philosophers mentored their students in ancient Greece, and teachers did the same in ancient Rome. It is widely cited that the concept of mentoring originated with the character of Mentor in Homer’s Odyssey.

In this Ancient Greek epic poem, dating back around 3000 years, Odysseus entrusts his young son Telemachus to the care of Mentor, his trusted companion, when he goes to fight in the Trojan War. Unexpectedly, he is away for decades and during that time Mentor nurtures and supports the boy.

Historians make a link to the Middle Ages, when they explain that mentoring ‘became common practice in the time of the guilds and trade apprenticeships when young people, having acquired technical skills, often benefited from the patronage of more experienced and established professionals’.

Mentoring programs can help unions like ours thrive over time. They enable more seasoned leaders to transfer their knowledge and experience to younger workers and activists. Ultimately, building future leaders is necessary to fill voids caused by attrition and therefore helps to keep the union strong.

Mentoring can especially help women, and racialized workers who constitute a significant portion of the USW Local 2009 membership but are underrepresented in the leadership roles of our union. Mentoring can help by providing equity seeking groups with the support they need to move up through the ranks and reach the top positions of our union.
Sometimes a member can be fortunate enough to be in the right time and place to be elected to a full time union position but this doesn’t mean that they have the education and training and skills development and leadership development to really handle that position and responsibilities. In these situations it is the membership that suffers most.

When there’s an effective and inclusive mentoring program, we not only give members the opportunity to move forward, we also give them support, skills, knowledge and experience that will allow them to succeed in an elected position.

For elected full-time Officer positions, they need to know that they have responsibilities as per the position of an Officer (i.e. President, Vice President, Financial Secretary, Trustee) that have specific duties and tasks but at the same time have responsibilities asa Union Servicing Representative, commonly referred to as a “Business Agent”. It is critical that a newly elected Officer can assume the duties immediately with only a short orientation time.

The Difficulties of Transition

While many union leaders strongly support mentoring in their own unions, many others resist it to some degree. Some say that newly elected leadership need to learn the position by just “jumping in and doing it and getting knocked around, and thats how its always been done before.” Another suggestion is that sometimes union leaders find it difficult to “let go” of the roles that new leaders are being trained to take on."

It is important to reassure our current elected Officers that developing leadership among our members is not “political suicide” and that mentoring is more about building support within unions. The more we can engage members, the more we can involve members, the more our members are going to know about the important work and dedication of the leadership, the more support they can expect, and the more you can open those lines of communication, the better it’s going to be for everybody.

Making Time for Mentoring

Mentoring requires a commitment of time and resources. Some formal mentoring programs such as the United Steelworkers District 3 “Internship Program” can last six months or a year, but often the mentoring relationship continues informally even after the program has officially ended. There is a lot that goes into a successful mentoring program and it will always involve a significant investment by the Local as well as an investment of those who wish to participate in the program. It requires mentoring to happen over time. It’s not a one-shot deal.

It must be recognized that our union has limited resources, so it is important to keep talking about the need for a mentoring program and the positive effects that will be realized. It is also important to expect that mentees are prepared to commit to investing their own personal (unpaid) time to the program.

To address the challenge of limited paid time our Mentorship Program will offer mentoring sessions when they are convenient for the participants to attend. We will endeavour to schedule group mentoring sessions after work hours, on weekends and provide an option of in-person or Zoom attendance.

This approach will be reasonable in Part One of the Program that involves much Theory and formal training. Part Two is designed to provide practical experience and in many cases will be offered on a lost-time basis.

To Apply for the 2024 Mentorship Program Download the application form fill in and submit

MENTORSHIP Application.pdf






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