February 01, 2013 - Rachel Miller
A massive government-sponsored recruitment drive of volunteer business mentors has hit its target of 15,000.
The experienced business people have signed up to help support small firms looking to start and grow. Together with the existing 12,000-strong mentor network, there are now 27,000 business mentors in the UK.
The new mentors have been recruited and trained over the past 16 months as part of the £1.9 million government-funded Get Mentoring project, delivered by the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI). The objective of the scheme is to harness and share the experience of business people to help new and growing enterprises.
The mentors have come from the small business community and can be accessed through mentorsme.co.uk, the national mentoring portal run by the British Bankers' Association (BBA). The volunteers have pledged to offer the equivalent of an hour a month of mentoring for two years.
The 15,000 trained recruits have joined 12,000 existing business mentors from across 115 mentoring organisations already available through the portal.
Ruth Lowbridge, executive chair of SFEDI, said: "Over the past year, SFEDI has trained volunteers in every corner of the UK. These are dedicated individuals who have generously agreed to share their hard-earned business experiences with others in order to support their success, thus contributing to the economic activity and wealth of the UK."
Business minister Michael Fallon said: "We have invested in mentoring because we know that good mentors can provide the practical advice and support that an entrepreneur needs to take their business idea to the next level. They have been there and done it and can pass that experience on."
Over the next three months, SFEDI is running a series of Meet a Mentor events to connect small businesses looking for help with volunteer mentors. The first event takes place at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London on 15 February and will involve over 100 small businesses and entrepreneurs.