In the United States, approximately 5.6 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are disconnected from school and work, and many are not getting the support they need to drive greater engagement. One in three young people— nearly 16 million— will reach the age of 19 without having ever had a mentor in their life of any kind. These rates are even higher for at-risk youth, who experience higher rates of poverty, limited networks, and under-resourced schools. Research shows that even one positive, consistent, caring, relationship with an adult can offset nearly every risk factor in a young person’s life and improve their chances of success.
Today, companies of all sizes are recognizing the role they can play in filling this “mentorship gap” and have simultaneously discovered that they can use mentorship programs to realize both business and corporate responsibility goals. According to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s most recent Community Involvement Study, companies consistently rank youth programs as one of the most important social issues addressed through their community involvement efforts (See Figure A).
Programs such as these provide value to employees and allow them to develop soft skills, deepen relationships with the community, and create a more inclusive culture. This in turn increases employee satisfaction in the company and reduces turnover. When the mentoring engagement aligns with business strengths, the company has an opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities to a new audience and build interest in the future of the company.
The benefits to the company are matched only by the benefits to the young people involved in the programs. Mentors help build an adolescent’s self-esteem and confidence while also helping them learn practical skills needed to succeed both in school and in the workforce. Specifically, studies show that at-risk youth who had access to a mentor are more likely to aspire to go to college, and to actually attend in greater numbers than those who did not have a mentor. Likewise, mentorships have been shown to improve at-risk youth’s rates of participation in more positive and healthy extra-curricular activities (see Figure B).
So how can companies effectively execute mentoring programs that inspire future generations as well as current employees? How can they measure the impact of their interactions and ensure that the mentor-mentee relationships are a rewarding experience?
Members can check out a webinar on demand to hear from nonprofit professionals from MENTOR, National Mentoring Partnership, whose mission is to fuel the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships for America’s young people. You will also hear from corporate citizenship professionals from member companies EY, Genentech, and General Motors, who have used mentorship programs to engage their employees and make lasting impacts on the lives of the youth in their communities. Not a member? Learn more about how the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship can help you get the most from your programs by calling 617 552 4545 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Bruce, M., & Bridgeland, J. (2014). The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises with Hart Research Associates for MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.
 Jones, D. A. (2010). Does serving the community also serve the company? Using organizational identification and social exchange theories to understand employee responses to a volunteerism programme. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83(4), 857-878.