Good Practice: Opening Doors and Minds, A Mentor Programme

Opening Doors and Minds: a Mentor Programme

Organisation Astangu Vocational Rehabilitation Centre
Country Estonia
Short description The programme aims to bring together IT-students with physical or mental disability as mentees and specialists from IT companies as mentors in order to support working age (16-63) IT-students with disability (e.g. clients of Astangu VRC) in making career choices and finding both internships and jobs through advice and support given and experience shared by mentors as the representatives of their companies. The hope is that the programme improves the personal development of mentees’ (e.g. social skills and self-esteem), motivates the mentees to try and experience new challenges and widens the awareness, knowledge and practical experiences of mentors and their companies through communication with people with disabilities.
Target group Working age (16-63) people from all over Estonia with physical/mental health disorders who are about to graduate from IT programme (Software and Database Management)  in Astangu VRC and who need support to meet the needs of real labour market/ real jobs.
Based on experiences from 2013 and 2014, the number of mentees has annually been 5 to 6.
Underlying theories
  • Mentoring is..."To support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be." (E. Parsloe, Coaching, Mentoring and Assessing: A Practical Guide to Developing Competence (London, 1995))
  • Mentoring reduces barriers to employment for persons with disabilities (1. Bruyère, S. (2000). Disability employment policies and practices in private and federal sector organizations. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Program on Employment and Disability. and 2. Schur, L., Kruse, D., Blanck, P. (2005) Corporate Culture and the Employment of Persons with Disabilities. Behavioral Sciences and the Law 23: 3-20.)
Direct impact
  • Two programmes have been completed since January 2013. Most of the mentees have secured an internship or a job to support their education and the achievement of their personal and professional dreams. 
  • The mentees have a portfolio which helps them to present themselves on paper (CV, motivation letter) and in person.
  • Mentoring programme “Opening doors and minds” is a brand new way of approaching employment obstacles of people with disabilities - initiative is coming from employers and respective employees instead of coming from the job coaches who are supporting the clients in entering labour market.
  • By implementing the programme you can help to add value to the usual vocational rehabilitation process with involving untraditional ways of working and different stakeholders in a new role.
Conclusions and results In 2013 and 2014 there have been 11 mentees and 10 mentors in the program (1 mentor participated two years in a row).

Results after the two mentor programmes:
  •         8 mentees entered the employment market
  •         1 stayed home due to health reasons
  •         1 was working as a volunteer
  •         1 was unemployed actively looking for a job 
Duration The program was initiated in January 2013.
Contact/More information Head of Employment Unit - Triin Juss

More information at: