Mentoring is a formidable tool in youth empowerment and employment generation. It has served over the years as a very effective means of empowering youths and job creation. The word “mentoring” from the root word ‘mentor’ has been adopted in English from its Greek myth origins to mean imparting wisdom to and sharing knowledge with a less experienced colleague. According to the Encyclopedia of Informal Education, “the classic definition of mentoring is of an older experienced guide who is acceptable to the young person and who can help ease the transition to adulthood by a mix of support and challenge. In this sense, it is a developmental relationship in which the young person is inducted into the world of adulthood”. In business, mentoring is the practice of assigning a junior member of staff to the care of a more experienced person who assists him in his career.
Mentoring is a personal developmental process of guiding a less experienced or less knowledgeable person as a more experienced and more knowledgeable person. It is a continuous relationship of learning dialogue and challenge. It is the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital and the psychosocial support as relevant to work, career or professional development of the youth by the mentor.
Youth empowerment however, is the attitudinal, structural and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of others.
Empowering young people means creating and supporting the enabling conditions under which young people can act on their own behalf and on their own terms rather than the direction of others. It is the needed leverage for employment generation.
Creating jobs is a keystone of any economy. Employment generation means job creation, job provision, making employment opportunities available. It is a continuous process in any growing economy.
Needless to say, tool is anything used for accomplishing a purpose. It is a means by which a task is fulfilled or a goal is attained. How then does mentoring help achieve the goal of mentoring in youth empowerment and employment generation?
Mentoring is needed in the empowerment process for the transmission of the needed knowledge, experience and ability to the youth. A dwarf on giant’s shoulder sees farther of the two. Youths need to be shown how to do things by those who have done it themselves. Mentors are a great source of inspiration to the youth and a driving force unto excellence. Mentoring is necessary for business ideas generation. Experience is the best teacher; many youths remain jobless for fear of the unknown, they are afraid to test the waters, mentors are however there to share their own experiences with them and encourage them to lunch out. Mentors assist youths to develop their skills, successfully start, manage, diversify and expand business enterprises.
Mentoring makes for the provision of economic and social capital to upcoming youths in maximizing their job opportunities. Being the one with the upper hand in the mentor-protégé relationship, mentors provide financial and social support to the youth. Take as an example a youth who has been trained (empowered) in a particular handicraft, the mentor needs to go a step further by facilitating easy access to start-up capital. A mentor can also stand as a surety/guarantor for upcoming youths venturing into new businesses. They provide credit guarantee and security for loans extended to the youth. This way, the empowerment is implemented, job is created and the youth can stand on his own.
Mentors also provide psychosocial and moral support to the youths. When empowered youths dabble into new business enterprises and encounter certain challenges, the mentor serves as a bulwark of encouragement and support to keep them going or they will quit and the goal of empowerment and job creation will be frustrated. Mentoring helps mitigate risks encountered and escape the small business death trap.
Mentoring challenges the youth to attempt higher levels of enterprise thus creating more jobs. A mentor is usually a set standard a mentee aspires to meet up and even surpass. Research as shown that mentoring aids massive job creation and generates the highest returns from empowered youths. This enhances economic growth.
Archimedes once said, “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the earth”, while commenting on his work on the lever. A lever is a simple machine consisting of a bar supported at some stationary point along its length and used to overcome resistance at a second point by application of force at a third point. The mentor-protégé (youth) relationship can be likened to a lever where the youth is the bar, empowerment and employment generation is the resistance and mentoring is the force used to overcome the resistance. Mentoring is the bridge between youth empowerment and employment generation.
Perhaps, the words of Isaac Newton will put things in a better perspective. He said, ’if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Mentors are giants on whose shoulders a youth can stand and be empowered, on whose shoulders an empowered youth can stand and become an employer of labour through the creation of jobs.
The effectiveness of mentoring in empowerment and employment generation cannot be overemphasized. Icons like Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg did not make it alone. They thrived on the network and support of entrepreneurs who realized that true and sustainable business success and economic growth depended on nurturing the next generation through a relationship and process known as mentoring.