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Author Topic: Starting a Mentorship Program -- advice  (Read 874 times)
AliciaH
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« on: February 10, 2011, 12:08:12 PM »

Hi, Everyone!  Been absent for awhile but I think life has settled a bit and am looking forward to visiting here more.  I missed you all!

My situation is that I went to my beekeeping meeting on Monday night and walked into a discussion about renewing the mentorship program in the group.  Who was interested?  I raised my hand, of course.  Mentoring is important, as we've all learned here.

Tuesday, I received several emails thanking me for volunteering to coordinate the mentorship group.  What?  Who?  Oh, oh...

So...I know that I need to find out who wants mentorship; I know I need to find out who is willing to provide it.  But, for those with more established programs, is there anything else I can include or do to get this ball rolling?  There have already been multiple, not always successful, attempts in this area to have a more formal mentorship program.

Any thoughts or advice? 

Thanks!
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jdnewberry
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2011, 02:31:55 PM »

WOW! What a surprise!  I guess my question would be "Who are you mentoring?"

My local association sponsors several events each year that may be similar to what you're looking for. 

In addition to the normal "meet and greet" that happens at every meeting, we sponsor a "beginning beekeeper" class every spring.  This years class is actually scheduled for next week.  We advertise in the paper and in the local community calendars informing the locals that the class exists.  It's always great fun, even for the more experienced beeks in the area. We discuss things like what equipment you need, where to locate the hives, where to source bees, share our "starting out" stories, etc...  Door prizes are offered for the new beeks such as hive tools, bee brushes, supers, paint, and sometimes even a complete hive, bees included.

We also offer free inspection classes a couple of times a year.  Usually it's one of the commercial beeks or the state inspector that heads up the class, but new beeks will walk away from the day with some useful knowledge and confidence.  More often than not, the course even certifies you as a licensed inspector.

Every couple of months, there is an outing to one of the member's apiaries.  This is a chance to see how other people are doing things and usually pick up some great tips.

Many members of our association publish their phone numbers in case someone needs a little assistance or just has a question.  Although we don't have an "official" mentorship program, it seems to me that by default, that's exactly what a beekeeping association is.

In short, I don't think it will be very difficult to put together.  Your association likely already does many of the things you'd want to do, anyway.  Good luck with the task, and keep us updated on how it's going.  I'd love to hear some other ideas that you guys come up with.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2011, 02:51:07 PM »

Beginner beekeepers usually have the idea that a mentoring program involves actual one on one time. Not attending a beginner class or a few socials a year. They want to have a person when trouble hits the fan, that they can call up and get to help, sometime on short notice.

As the mentors coordinator (Congratulations on your appointment...  Wink  ) Identifying who needs help, and connecting them to actual association members is the key.

I would ask the association to have access to the membership list a minimum. When someone contacts you in needing a mentor, an email to all members identifying what is needed should be sent. Not NAMES.
Something in the newletter like:
A beekeeper in the Dillsburg area of York county is seeking a mentor for this season. Please contact the mentor coordinator if you can assist....blah, blah, ....and so on"

Then I would back that up one step further with a personal phone call or email to the closest 3-4 members you identify on the members listing. Nothing beats actually asking someone personally.

I know from experience that trying to make up a list of mentors ahead of time get few results. Nobody likes committing to an unknown face, an unknown place, or an unknown situation.

Identify those in need. Then try to connect them with your resources, using your charm, your wit, and a few blows to the head if need be.

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Acebird
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2011, 03:54:39 PM »

Quote
Then I would back that up one step further with a personal phone call or email to the closest 3-4 members you identify on the members listing. Nothing beats actually asking someone personally.

Kind of like a blind date.

It is hard to get people to commit unless there is personal gain.  Our club struggles to get a beginners class organized and this year we have limited it to 25 people.  Of course everyone is going to want the teacher to be the mentor.  No one is going to trust a second year beek for that job.  I feel that a new beek should buy local and that local guy becomes (maybe unwillingly) the mentor if nothing more than for phone consultations.

My wish list for clubs, associations or what ever, would be to own a couple of hives that all the new people work.  It would only require one club tender which could easily be a teacher of the class or a knowledgeable person in the club to run.  No more demanding than running a class.  The club could expand into queen rearing and have an endless supply of local queens for the club members.

What do you feel would be acceptable compensation for a club tender?
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2011, 05:54:42 PM »

Here's my take on being a Mentor, both from being one and having had one (two actually).

The timing on my happening upon this posting comes after having just hung up on my younger brother who called me with bee questions, it was a 45 minute conversation.
I am teaching my younger brother how to be a 360 degree commercial bee operator.  That is manufacturing equipment for sale, pollen services, producing honey for sale, selling nucs and queens, as well as how to produce specialty honeys, comb honeys, wax, pollen, and propolis for sale.  In a nut shell, how to do it all.  He currently has 1 bee hive and I have 4, we are going to produce 60 beehives out of those 5 this year without buying any bees and manufacturing his own equipment.

A person willing to be a mentor needs to be cognizant of the fact that they will be bombarded with questions from a newbee at all hours of the day and evening.  They must have the patience to either answer the questions posed, properly and in depth, or refer the questioner to appropriate printed materials (which can result in even more questions).  The mentor should be willing to visit the newbees beeyard, with the newbee, at least once a month and give a competent evaluation of the newbees efforts and conditions of the hives, and make suggestions for improvement or implementation of new concepts.
In addition the mentor should be will to take the newbee into his own apiary at least once a month.  Again a report or evaluation should be given but this time by the newbee to access learning.  The mentor should then give an oral explanation of his plans for his apiary for the next 30 days.

BTW: this is what was necessary back in the day when I approved Boy Scouts for merit badges.

The Newbee has the right to expect both oral dissertations (lectures) on beekeeping and some hands on instruction for a period of at least 2 full seasons.

A Good mentor can handle up to 6 newbees at a time, I am currently mentoring 3, my younger brother, my older brother, and my daughter.  All get lectures and hands on instruction on demand.  It is not unusual to spend an hour on the phone then another hour or 2 in a beeyard, in response newbees questions.

It is a great feeling and sense of achievement when a newbee asks questions and you can see the light dawn when you answer with a qestion of something taught earlier.

You get much more knowledgable, committed, and confident beekepers through mentoring. It is well worth the time spent.
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AliciaH
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2011, 07:44:35 PM »

Thanks for the input, everyone!  My group, Pierce County Beekeeping Association (PCBA), does give classes.  In the past couple of years, the class enrollment has grown beyond belief.  Finishing the first class results in an Apprenticeship Level Certification from the Washington State Beekeepers' Association.  Then, if the member wants, they can participate in the Journeyman level studies, which is where I am now. 

We hold our meetings at the WSU Extension in Puyallup, and as a club, maintain hives there.  The hives are maintained by a more experienced member who tries diligently to promote participation in maintaining the hives and use them for teaching tools for the new beeks.

Getting beeks out of their hives and connected is the struggle.  The observations that you have offered about more experienced beeks not wanting to randamly put their names on a list for just any-ol' person to call is probably one of the biggest issues (not that I blame them, I like my privacy, too).  I am trying to get ahold of a membership list so that when a new(er) beek asks for help, I can help track someone down.  You guys are right, there's nothing like a good ol' fashioned phone call!

I like the idea of going in groups to inspect each others' hives.  One of the most useful things about beekeeping is that there are so many ways to do things.  But for a new beek, that can be detrimental, too.  How and why does one decide to follow a certain path?  I'll work on that one though as I imagine there will need to be guidelines.  Information about how not to transfer pests from someone else's apiary back to yours coming first to my mind.  But new beeks are so hungry for info, I think it would be fun.
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Countryboy
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2011, 08:58:51 PM »

I didn't have a mentor when I started beekeeping.  I learned by reading and by playing with my hives.

A couple years ago I mentioned to my beekeeping club about getting a mentorship program going, but nothing got off the ground.  This past year, we actually got it going.

We made a list of experienced beekeepers who would be willing to mentor, with a note of the area they lived in.  Then we made a list of people who wanted a mentor, and we paired them up with an experienced beekeeper who was local to them.  So far it seems to be working out ok.

My club has a LOT of old folks in it.  Quite a few of the regulars are white haired, and no longer keep bees.  They just enjoy coming to the meetings.  However, they are a wealth of information, and it wouldn't surprise me if some of them just enjoy getting to get out of the house to help a beginner.

My club also started something news this year.  Every other month we have an 'open beeyard', kind of like an open house, of a club members beeyard.  A group of people show up at their house, and you go through hives and learn different ways of doing things.

One on one mentorship is great, but it may be easier to get a lot of beginners instruction all at once if you have beeyard gatherings.

If you have enough people, you can look into the club setting up a hive to use to teach beginners.
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Acebird
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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2011, 08:35:22 AM »

Quote
We hold our meetings at the WSU Extension in Puyallup, and as a club, maintain hives there.  The hives are maintained by a more experienced member who tries diligently to promote participation in maintaining the hives and use them for teaching tools for the new beeks.

Awsome, cudos to your club.

Quote
But for a new beek, that can be detrimental, too.  How and why does one decide to follow a certain path?


You hit the nail on the head there.
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edward
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« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2011, 12:11:51 AM »

What we need is a chain of knowledge , and someone to hold a new beekeeper hand so they don't become overwhelmed and give up.!

I learned allot by being the dogs body to a large ish beekeeper.

Two pairs of hands make things easier, practical work i bee yards help moving hives , harvesting , medicating lots of time on the road with a captive beekeeper in close quarters and allot of discussions about beekeeping , how why , when and what fore.

Learn allot of trixs + got help with my bee yards , tips where to buy hives , bees.Combined ordering from grossist stores to keep cost low.

Looking forward to helping tomorrows new beekeepers to heavy harvests of liquid gold . grin


mvh edward Tongue
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2011, 01:17:05 AM »

Just listening to the stories from an experienced beekeeper can teach loads to a newbee.  Helping an experienced beekeeper and keeping him jawing while you work is a real good way to learn.  Often as not, they'll stop in the middle of everything and show you what they're talking about.
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Life is a school.  What have you learned?   Brian      The greatest danger to our society is apathy, vote in every election!
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