How many times have we heard the complaint from employers that young people entering the workplace are ill-prepared for the environment? It’s not the lack of work experience, they attest. Rather, it is attitude, mannerisms, language and reliability that are called into question. Or have you, as a client, encountered a business service provider who fails to respond to something as simple as "good morning" or leaves without so much as an "excuse me"? Have you sat in a meeting and listened to inappropriately loud laughter? Have you assigned a task only to find out that it’s been left incomplete while your new hire clocks out at 4 pm without so much as a note to you?
The scenarios might be common, but all too often, they do not arise because someone wishes to be rude or incompetent. The fact is most people take pride in doing a good job and actually want to be good employees. The answer might actually lie elsewhere. Surprisingly, though it is often ascribed to not being work-ready, what we really lament is lack of social skills.
Many young people have no role models to teach them the basics of social or workplace etiquette. Assuming the responsibilities of arriving on time, dressing appropriately or delivering courteous customer service may actually be impacted by home environments that are under-exposed (or maybe not exposed) to adults who have the experience. This is likely to be more prevalent in low-income homes where breadwinners may hold more than one job and consequently have less time to personally supervise children. The job of training might be deferred to schools which might themselves be resource-strapped and therefore ill-equipped to provide this type of training. And quite simply, there are homes where the adults were simply not exposed to these learnings and consequently cannot pass them on to the younger ones. This is where work-based mentoring can make the difference.
This type of mentoring has the potential to transform lives, provided that the mentor and mentee establish a synergistic relationship of trust, respect and warmth. Mentoring can be in the workplace or even through partnerships between experienced people and community organisations. Further to teaching good etiquette, it can provide access to better job opportunities or promotions. It does not matter if the mentor is a businessperson, contracted professional or even a relative providing informal mentoring. The mentoring relationship allows the young person to connect with others and opens a connecting door to other prospects. It also affords the guidance that could lead to skilled labour and higher education.
Mentors can influence youths in several positive ways – helping them with personal development, life skills and acquiring job skills. Through these and enhancing social connections, they acquire greater self-esteem and optimism about their future. Along the way they learn the skills that prepare them for the workplace: teamwork, communication skills, diligence, responsibility and respect for rules.
This being our last column for 2019, the TT Chamber takes this opportunity to extend warmest wishes for a happy Christmas and a bright and prosperous new year to all of TT. May each home and workplace be blessed with the love and togetherness that is characteristic of the season.
(Content courtesy the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce)