Training and accreditation

Some volunteers value the provision of training enormously, regarding it as an essential part and tangible benefit of their volunteering experience.  In these cases, training will undoubtedly increase volunteer confidence and satisfaction.

However, others may not see the need for training, or even if they do, they may find the idea very off-putting.  If this is the case, the need for training must be 'sold' with great sensitivity.  In all instances, training must be well-planned and appropriate to the needs of the group or organisation and to the needs of the individual volunteer.

The training process takes time, effort and requires an input of resources. So why do it?

  • Training demonstrates that the group/organisation believes in a high standard of work
  • Training lessens the likelihood of mistakes and other problems
  • Some groups/organisations use training courses as a part of their volunteer selection procedure
  • Training allows new volunteers to learn about the group/organisation and their specific tasks
  • Training also allows existing volunteers to perform their roles better and to take on new work as the group/organisation changes
  • Training gives volunteers an opportunity to learn about the political, social and economic setting in which the group/organisation operates
  • Training can heighten personal skills and awareness, so the volunteers can function more effectively as individuals and therefore do their voluntary work more successfully
  • It can also improve interpersonal and group awareness, so volunteers can both work more effectively with colleagues and deal more sensitively with the group/organisation's client group
  • Providing standardised training can ensure consistency in approach by different volunteers and continuity over time.
  • Training helps to minimise risk (for example, health and safety training)

Design of Training

Determining what form of training a volunteer may need, requires answering three questions:

  • What information do they need to successfully perform the work?
  • What skills do they need to successfully perform the work?
  • What attitudes or approaches do they need to successfully perform the work?

Training to provide this information, develop these skills and engender these attitudes can be provided in a variety of ways. It may be done in-house, externally, or jointly with other groups/organisations, and can include:

  • On-the-job training
  • Practical demonstrations
  • Work shadowing
  • Buddying/mentoring systems
  • Visiting other organisations/inviting visits from outside organisations
  • Attending conferences, workshops, lectures, seminars, etc.
  • Role plays and simulations
  • Problem-solving exercises, group discussions, brainstorms, etc
  • Speakers and films at meetings
  • One-off training sessions of varying lengths
  • Telephone conferencing
  • Linked or modular courses, consisting of several sessions over a period of time
  • Distance and online learning
  • Structured reading programmes.

It is recommended that a variety of techniques are used, which combine listening, discussing, observing and doing, as this will help to maintain attention and interest.