Victoria Alleyne (second row, second from right) and her team.
Career Skills Incubator is a non-profit organization that enables and recognizes the development of career skills. Located at the Centre for Social Innovation, the organization’s goal is to empower people to develop whatever career skills they need in the present and the future. They recently launched Menteer.ca, a unique app that propels mentorship into the much-needed truly accessible realm. Good News Toronto spoke with Victoria Alleyne, the founder and executive director of Career Skills Incubator, about the innovative app.
How did Menteer.ca come about from Careers Skill Incubator? And when?
We had a mentorship program that was growing and growing which started back in 2012. It started because so many of my friends after university, who are so awesome, struggled to find meaningful work and motivation after school. With such high un(der)employment mentorship seemed one of many ways to help.
We got to the point with over 100 participants in the mentorship program and realized we couldn’t keep manually matching people together, especially as a volunteer-run organization. We researched existing options and most were subscription based, meaning you had to pay a big chunk of change indefinitely to another organization. We wanted the security of something we wouldn’t have to keep making payments for in the future. We worked on it in 2014 and launched it in 2015.
Why was an app the way to go?
I think because so many of us are a bit younger we tend to want to automate everything. But relationships themselves can’t be automated, but at least an app can get people started on their relationships more efficiently.
Can you explain how it works?
Anyone can go on the website (www.menteer.ca) and answer about 10 questions for a profile, and indicate if they want to be a mentor or a mentee (or both!). Then the algorithm matches based on your preferences (such as skills, level of interest, stage in career, location) and gives you a list of people to choose from. Once you select your mentor (currently mentees choose their mentors, we may change this in the future), an email is sent out and if you both confirm, you can set up your first meeting. From there, it’s up to people to decide how they want to meet, how often, etc., and we make ourselves available with support materials, occasional training, etc.
Alternately, if you’re an organization starting a mentorship program, you can find our code for free on Github and customize the tool to use for your own mentorship program, for free. It’s open source.
How do you get the mentors? How do you get the mentees?
It’s generally just word of mouth and people finding us online for both mentors and mentees.
What has the response been? Any success stories you can share?
We’ve had hundreds of signups! More than expected. But the problem with that is, of course, some sign up because they are truly interested, some just to check it out and have no intention of following through.
Yes, we have met people who said they had great relationships and ended up going and getting another mentee because it went so well first time around.
Where do you go from here?
We want to make the app itself better — more options, easier to use, maybe add some gamification elements, etc. And also use the information from people who have used the app to build stronger, more impactful mentoring relationships.
We also hope to keep supporting organizations starting their own mentorship programs by encouraging them to use and customize the app for their own needs. Everyone could use a couple of good mentors at any point in time, we love to see more programs thrive.