To stay relevant and successful in today’s fast-paced and competitive business world, companies constantly seek innovative ways to drive growth, foster a positive work culture, and create a meaningful impact in their communities. One approach that has gained significant traction in our technology-centered society is encouraging employees to become mentors in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) programs. Employees can contribute their expertise and guidance by participating as mentors to inspire and shape the next generation of STEM leaders. By diving into FIRST and empowering employees to become FIRST mentors, companies will foster a mutually beneficial relationship to improve their company.

1. Strengthening the Company’s Reputation

When a company encourages its employees to become FIRST mentors, it demonstrates a genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility and community engagement. This involvement enhances the company’s reputation as an organization that actively supports STEM education and empowers young individuals to pursue careers in these fields. By aligning with FIRST’s mission of inspiring young minds, the company becomes recognized as a leader in promoting education and contributing to society. 

2. Developing Leadership and Communication Skills

Becoming a FIRST mentor offers employees a unique opportunity to develop and refine their leadership and communication skills. Working with young students, they learn to effectively convey complex concepts, listen actively, and adapt their communication styles to different audiences. These skills are transferable to the workplace, enabling mentors to become more effective collaborators, mentors, and leaders within their teams and organizations. “What FIRST is really good with is not just developing these students’ technical skills, but developing their professional skills as well. A lot of good communication skills these students are learning; we are seeing professional development in terms of teamwork and collaboration because they have to work with so many teams from schools they don’t even know. We really like that at Toyota because we have to do the same thing.” Chris Melvin, Toyota

3. Fostering Innovation and Creativity

Engagement with FIRST programs exposes employees to a diverse group of students with fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. By mentoring these young minds, employees are encouraged to think creatively, find new approaches to problem-solving, and embrace out-of-the-box thinking alongside the students on their team. The infusion of innovative ideas from the FIRST program can inspire employees to approach their work with renewed enthusiasm and generate inventive solutions to complex challenges.

4. Building a Stronger Talent Pipeline

Supporting employees to become FIRST mentors can also help build a strong talent pipeline for the company. Through their mentoring experience, employees can identify and connect with talented individuals who may one day become valuable employees. By nurturing these relationships, companies can establish early connections with promising students, creating a talent pipeline that can be tapped into as they progress through their education and enter the job market.

5. Enhancing Employee Engagement and Retention

Participating in the FIRST program as a mentor can significantly boost employee engagement and job satisfaction. Employees who feel supported by their organization to engage in meaningful community work are more likely to feel valued and motivated. Moreover, being a mentor allows employees to witness firsthand the impact they can have on young lives, which creates a sense of fulfillment and purpose in their work. Consequently, supporting employees to become FIRST mentors can increase employee retention rates (see article), as they are more likely to feel a strong sense of loyalty and connection to the company.

Mentors prove to be an invaluable asset to the experience of FIRST students, as illustrated by FIRST alum Sam Szanti. “Without my mentors, I don’t think I would have the confidence in my engineering skills or myself that I have today. I was the Project Manager of my team throughout the pandemic, and it was a really difficult time to have to lead a group of 60 students both virtually and throughout seasons with canceled competitions and events. My mentors worked with me to continue to provide educational opportunities for students and continued to keep a positive and fun atmosphere for students. When talking to my mentors after graduation, they have said to me how much they have grown as well, and how fulfilling being a mentor is, just by having the opportunity to be a positive influence to FIRST students.”

Encouraging employees to become FIRST mentors is a win-win scenario for both the individuals and the company. By supporting and empowering employees to participate in the FIRST program, companies can strengthen their reputation, foster leadership, and communication skills, inspire innovation, build a strong talent pipeline, and enhance employee engagement and retention.  Ultimately, investing in the development and mentorship of future STEM leaders benefits the company and contributes to a brighter and more sustainable future for all. 

If your company or you want to learn more about becoming a mentor for FIRST in Indiana, contact Chris Osborne, Vice-President of Programs. You can also visit the FIRST website to learn more about mentoring