ARALE conference

The ARALE Conference took place in Brussels on 2nd and 3rd of October 2013.

Adult learners become mentors

Recruiting adult learners to be mentors is one of the tools for Helen Cormack and her partners of the European project FORMULA. The aim of the project is to facilitate the work of mentors and role models in support adults from socially and economically deprived communities to participate in education and make progression in society.

Helen Cormack from Scottish Wider Access Programme West presented not only national experiences to a European audience; she brought to the conference the results of a European project involving five countries with the very long name “Facilitating Opportunities for our disadvantaged adult using mentors (Role Models) to Underpin Learning for Adults who are socially excluded” (FORMULA).

Participating in FORMULA is:

  • SWAP-West - a consortium of 18 Further Education Colleges and 8 Higher Education establishments, working with Community Education
  • FORMARE STUDIA from Romania - a professional training centre
  • POE EDUCO, spol. s r.o. from the Czech Republic – a private organization providing education services to adults
  • the University of Malmö, Sweden
  • the Foundation for Social Development (FDS) from Spain - a non-profit organization promoting the development of the population in the rural areas

Glasgow Caledonian University from the UK is an associate partner.

In her presentation Helen Cormack stressed that the partners were very different. They brought different skills to the project. That is one of the reasons that the project result can benefit others.

Encourage and guide

“The role of mentors is to encourage people to engage in adult education. Via the project we wanted to find out what kind of guidance was needed and to develop material that can be used to train mentors for adults that have difficulties,” Helen Cormack said.

The mentors are role models who take care of people from poor backgrounds with multiple deprivations. They help learners progress and obtain the qualifications society needs them to have, by providing robust guidance frameworks.

25 mentors in five countries

The work of the project FORMULA passed through three stages. First they distributed a questionnaire to adult potential learners and existing learners.

Secondly they developed materials, trained facilitators and recruited Role Model Mentors.

At stage 3 they trained the Role Model Mentors.

“We were very ambitious and set ourselves a target of 100 mentors per country - across Europe. In fact we received 500 answers to a survey asking people to become mentors.

25 percent of those wanted to hear more about becoming mentors. Now we have 25 mentors in each country,” Helen Cormack told the audience.

Volunteers work

She put strong emphasis on the message that it is possible to recruit adult volunteers as mentors:

“We targeted people that went to an adult education class when we looked for mentors. And it is important to notice that the mentors learn too,” she said.

Finally Helen Cormack said that the concept actually worked in five very different countries. In contrast to many other national or European short-time projects the work can be sustained after the project period, and it can be transferred Europe wide.

“And most important of all: Socially disadvantaged adults will return to education and training because of the support.”