Pharos-Tribune

January 16, 2014

STANCZYKIEWICZ: Employers' role in mentoring our youth

By Bill Stanczykiewicz
Pharos-Tribune

---- — While corporate CEO Bob Taylor spends time reviewing inventory reports, he also is taking stock of the next generation.

The company Taylor leads, Do It Best Corp., provides employees with paid time off each week to mentor children and youth. As a former national board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Taylor knows that a child who has a quality relationship with a mentor at least one hour each week tends to do better in school, avoid alcohol and drugs, stay away from crime and pursue healthy opportunities.

As a member of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Taylor also knows that youth mentoring is essential for the Hoosier state’s future economic development. “When you make that business connection, it’s another way of exposing young people early on to the opportunities that are right here in their backyard in Indiana,” Taylor said. “Hopefully that’s one more way, later down the road, of keeping them at home, helping them understand the great job opportunities that we have here.”

Kim Nymeyer manages the mentoring program for Elkhart General Hospital’s medical group which provides employees with time on the clock to mentor. Nymeyer asserted that in addition to receiving positive youth development, students who are mentored gain new awareness of career possibilities.

“They sure do,” Nymeyer declared. “This is a way to expose them to all different types of opportunities and types of jobs that they never would have imagined even existed because their scope is limited in terms of what they’re exposed to. This gives us an opportunity to show them a little bit of the world that they might not otherwise see.”

Eddie Melton agrees. Melton oversees community engagement for NiSource, headquartered in Merrillville, and his responsibilities include running a mentoring program for Gary high school students. NiSource allows employees to use company time to mentor teenagers. “We believe that having an educated emerging workforce is important to our industry and the communities that we serve,” Melton stated. “That’s why we support our employees and their efforts to mentor the youth in northern Indiana.”

Due to mentoring’s positive impact on youth and economic development, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce endorses the business and youth development strategy of providing employees with paid time off each week to mentor. “Mentorships are an integral component of Indiana’s strategy to reduce the dropout rate and improve student preparedness and performance,” said the state chamber’s President & CEO, Kevin Brinegar. “Mentors can provide a valuable link between an at-risk student and the pathway to a good job. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce encourages Hoosier employers to provide regular time off for their employees to serve as mentors to our youth.”

Mentoring also has an impact on today’s workforce. “As CEO I’m also the Chief Environmental Officer, and this does have a tangible impact on the environment of our workplace,” Taylor explained. Taylor added that Do It Best enjoys good public relations from the company’s mentoring program, and that positive community image helps Do It Best recruit top talent for open jobs. In addition, the mentoring program enhances team chemistry.

Taylor concluded, “It’s a win-win for the company, the staff members and the young people being mentored.”

A free resource offered by the Indiana Mentoring Partnership is available for employers who want to start a youth mentoring program. The brief booklet, “Developing Your Business as a Champion for Youth Mentoring,” (located online at abetterhour.org), describes how to partner with local mentoring agencies and establish guidelines to ensure accountability.

The manual is based, in part, on the mentoring program conducted by Old National Bank, headquartered in Evansville. Old National provides employees with 30 minutes each week to mentor a child. The bank’s executive vice president, Kathy Schoettlin, takes full advantage of the program and said her mentee is not the only person who benefits.

“I learn just as much from (the child I mentor) as he learns from me. We talk about having a caring adult in the life of a child. Well, there’s nothing like that caring child giving it to you right back. It’s not just what you do for the child. It’s what that child does for you as well.”

Bill Stanczykiewicz is President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. He can be reached at iyi@iyi.org and on Twitter: @_billstan