Different volunteering roles require different amounts and types of training. Sometimes volunteers may be recruited because they have already undertaken training or have a specific qualification, and other times volunteers will need to be provided with the training required to undertake their role safely and effectively. Training requirements are generally dictated by the duties of a role but may also be stipulated in grant or funding agreements. Training may also be part of a personal or skills development plan for volunteers as they grow in their role.
National Standard 5: Support and Development covers training. To meet this National Standards organisations must provide training and development opportunities to meet volunteer needs and identify needs for further development. A key imperative of volunteer training is ensuring that volunteers have the skills and information required to perform their role safely. Such training may include things like manual handling and is also an important part of meeting work, health and safety requirements. Training can be aimed at practical skill development and more general skill development.
Before recruiting volunteers, it is important to understand the training requirements of the role you are recruiting for. Depending on these requirements, you may choose to target volunteers with an existing skillset or qualification, or you may choose to provide volunteers with such training. Oftentimes training takes place ‘on the job’ as volunteers learn their various duties. It is imperative your organisation resources this aspect of volunteer involvement to maximise the value of volunteer engagement for both the organisation and the volunteer.
Your organisation may decide to invest in ongoing professional development for volunteers. This may include internal training, training provided by an external provider, or a combination of both. Such training may not be essential, but it helps to upskill your volunteer workforce and recognises their importance to your organisation. Enhancing the skills of volunteers often has direct benefits for the organisation and clients/service users.
The cost of training can often be a barrier for organisations; however, there are usually low and no cost options available. Many volunteering support services and volunteer resource centres as well as the State and Territory Peak Bodies for Volunteering offer free or subsidised training for volunteers. Additionally, registered training organisations and vocational education providers often have low-cost options for not-for-profit organisations. Another way to fund volunteer training is to build the cost into grant/funding applications. Finally, there are many avenues for free training online from simple YouTube videos right the way through to open access universities.
Training does not have to be based on formal education and can include things such as cross-pollination of skills across programs, guest speakers, coaching, mentoring, and other practical skill-building exercises. When considering professional development opportunities for volunteers it is good practice to involve volunteers in the process and get their feedback on what training they would like to participate in. Some volunteers are not interested in further training, so it is important to be clear about what training is negotiable, and what training is the requirement of a role.