Another mentor recruitment drive launched
The Department for Business (BIS) has issued a call for another 10,000 volunteer business mentors to join the controversial Mentorsme initiative, pledging £1.2 million to train them.
The Get Mentoring training programme is to be led by the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI), which has recently developed nationally recognised qualifications and training materials for business mentors.
The National Enterprise Network (NEN), the association representing local enterprise agencies, has also announced that it is a national partner of the programme. Dawn Whiteley, chief executive of NEN stated “that mentoring is but one component of an holistic business support service” and “there are still bridges to cross in terms of the specific connections with local support which could bring additional value and support to the clients being supported.”
Confusingly, the Get Mentoring launch follows an announcement two weeks ago by Home Secretary Theresa May that £700,000 will be made available over the next three years by the Home Office to recruit 5,000 mentors for female entrepreneurs.
Business minister Mark Prisk announced earlier this year that 40,000 volunteer mentors will have been recruited onto Mentorsme by next summer. However, having launched the initiative with 10,000 mentors in July, he admitted in a written parliamentary answer earlier this month that the figure had only grown to 11,000 in the following four months.
Speaking to members of the ICAEW last week, Mr Prisk added to the confusion by saying: “We will have over 26,000 business to business mentors; real people with real experience and able to offer advice, all online and on Mentorsme.
“I want to go beyond 26,000 but I want to monitor the quality and look at the geographical spread [of the mentors].”
The news of the new funding for mentor training comes as 1,500 people have lost their jobs with the closure of Business Link’s business advisory services. Similar numbers are also believed to have been laid off from enterprise agencies who previously delivered face-to-face advice contracts funded by Business Link
Mr Prisk has referred to the senselessly-named Mentorsme initiative as “a replacement for the Business Link advisers”. Since its launch the initiative has been subject to widespread scepticism from the business community, including from experienced mentors, business support agencies and small business owners.
It remains to be seen whether these latest announcements will quell the criticism and confusion or simply add to it.
Read Dawn Whiteley’s comments about Get Mentoring on the NEN website.