Patty Alper, author of the new book Teach to Work, has a clever idea addressing two big national issues: the employers’ plea to get young hires with essential workplace skills and the desire by Americans over 50 to give back, especially by helping the nation’s youth. Alper calls it “project-based mentorship.” That means a person with decades of business experience mentors a student on a project the child devises, plans and implements.
Her book’s subtitle explains Alper’s vision nicely: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America.
Alper, an entrepreneur who co-founded a Washington, D.C., construction project management company in 1980 where she was one of the first women in the field, has done project-based mentoring with 600 inner-city high school students for 16 years. She thinks this type of mentoring works best with 14- to 22-year-olds. “They’re more involved in the world and beginning to think about careers — or should be — and what skills they enjoy,” says Alper, who now runs Alper Portfolio Group, a marketing and consulting firm.