I was asked by a friendly person this afternoon who's writing a book what I thought of the importance of mentors to young people. In 140 character Twitter goodness:
I’d say mentors are applied educators that take help young people develop. You can’t learn such experience from books or classes.
I can really attest to this. When I left high school in 2005 I got a job a Veritas writing Perl and MySQL code for a friend of my mother here in Singapore. I drew a paycheck, I had a desk in their offices, I worked alongside other people, and I reported to someone who was genuinely interested in my progress and offered patient help and guidance. I learned more from studying and working with Mr Whiting for several months than I have from several long years of university education that are still ongoing. It's absolutely, 100% true, and I suspect a great number of people who've experienced both would agree with me.
Unfortunately the prestige bestowed upon people with a magical piece of paper that says that person completed a university degree is still far higher than those who developed experience and character in the workforce under the watchful eye of a mentor. I think this really needs to change.