Training for volunteers is an absolute necessity. For example, a volunteer must be trained in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to serve as a lifeguard.
However, for many groups the decision about whether or not to have a training programme is not entirely clear. Some of the issues to consider when deciding whether or not to have a training programme include:
The training enables new volunteers to get to know people, the program and the work quickly and efficiently.
- Training volunteers establishes that there is a minimum of competence that all volunteers are expected to achieve.
- Many volunteers consider training to be one of the benefits of being part of an organization. The training teaches them skills that can be useful in any other field and can even help them to get gainfully employed.
- To train publicly recognizes a necessary level of competence. Training volunteers conveys the idea that the organization is professional and has the ability to take on important work and do it well.
- Some organizations use training as a “disposal” technique to ensure that volunteers who have registered will live up to their commitments.
Once the organization has decided that it wants to implement a formal volunteer training program, it should decide who should lead it. This will, of course, depend to a large extent on the situation: how many volunteers need training, how much training they require and what resources they are prepared to employ in training, for example. In this way, it will be up to the organization to decide what best suits its needs.
If the organization has a volunteer coordinator or director, this person will almost always play a role in the training classes and can take over training in smaller organizations.
As with any other plan developed, there are certain steps to be taken in the creation of training programmes.
DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO TEACH VOLUNTEERS.
Why are you training volunteers? When new volunteers complete training What should they know? Also, important What do you want to know? Both trainers and new volunteers will have expectations for the training programme: it is important that the trainer develops a programme that concentrates on both.
DECIDE HOW THEY WILL BE INSTRUCTED.
What kind of training programme do you want to offer to new volunteers? The simplest possibilities are appropriate for smaller organizations, simpler tasks and groups that lack the resources to carry out a full training programme. These two possibilities are the implementation of the “peer support system” and learning through observation.
Under the “peer support system” the new volunteer initially works with an experienced person who provides information and suggestions. The observation system is very similar; however, the new volunteer takes a more passive position and initially only observes.
PUT TOGETHER A BUDGET FOR THE TRAINING PROGRAM.
Training programmes can be carried out without making large investments, but it is unusual for them to be cost-free. Typical costs include rental of equipment or premises, fees for trainers, staff working hours, food and drink and materials.
DETERMINE WHICH MATERIALS WOULD BE USED AND WHICH ARE IN LINE WITH THE BUDGET.
Videos, activity books, documented material, web pages and other materials may be helpful. Depending on the type of training being developed, useful materials can be found in national information centres, similar organizations and other sources.
SPREAD THE WORD.
A note should be sent to new volunteers reminding them of the time and place of the training classes. In addition, it should be made clear how long the training class will last. If the training is particularly extensive, it is a good idea to request a written or oral confirmation that they will be able to attend all (or most of) the training sessions.
ENSURE THAT ALL LOGISTICS ARE IN OPERATION BEFORE EACH TRAINING SESSION.
That is, that the place is empty and ready, that there are enough chairs, that the instructors know what time they should attend and similar details.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE PHYSICAL COMFORT OF THE ATTENDEES.
This is the first thing to do when the volunteers arrive. Is it too cold in the place? Is it too hot? Do you want something to drink? Do you know where the bathrooms are? If people are uncomfortable, they will not have a good time listening to or participating in debates and activities.
MAKE PEOPLE FEEL AT EASE.
When starting training, people may feel shy about participating in the debate or asking questions. Consider this nervousness and try to find a way to reduce it. Both a comfortable learning environment and ice-breaking activities can help people feel at ease (it’s almost impossible to feel uncomfortable on a soft sofa, for example).
WHEN PEOPLE FEEL MODERATELY COMFORTABLE, THEY CAN START WITH TRAINING.
However, before creating the plan for the session, it may be useful to understand what is the best way for adults to learn. Understanding certain concepts and techniques, sometimes called “adult learning principles”, will make it easier to develop a highly effective training programme.