Ongoing Training and Support

CLO’s Valued Added research also revealed that 40% of literacy volunteers would like additional training. Clearly, literacy agencies need to make ongoing training a central part of their volunteer management plan. Although many literacy agencies worry that increased training will prove too much of a strain on their limited resources, providing meaningful training opportunities will improve services and volunteer retention efforts. Training can take the form of a mentoring system, locally run events, attendance at regional opportunities, or accessing online resources.

A Volunteer Wishlist:
When asked how they would like to receive their ongoing training volunteers gave the following responses:

Tutor training provided by the program 90%
One-to-one training with an experienced tutor 48%
Regional tutor training 33%
Self-study resources 29%
Blended training (a combination of best practices from community-based and Laubach-based programs) 29%
Classroom courses at an accredited institution 16%
Other 15%
Online learning 14%
Distance education courses through an accredited institution 6%

Source: CLO: Skills for the Future: Phase 1 Practitioner Training Strategy (2000)

The overwhelming preference for local training suggests that volunteers are in search of practical skills and information to use in their immediate context. Local people often have the clearest understanding of the specific challenges faced by local volunteers and can meet those needs directly and efficiently. Conferences and other large scale training opportunities, while valuable, often have a broader focus and may or may not have practical applications for local volunteers.

Volunteer focus groups from the Value Added research had the following comments regarding training:

“Training is important and should be ongoing”
“Training can be too little too late. They need to offer it more often.” 
“We need more workshops and discussion groups for sharing best practices.”

For organizations looking for assistance with planning and delivering local training session CLO’s Valued Added Toolkit provides extensive resources for this task. The toolkit takes organizations step by step through planning, designing, delivering and evaluating training events.

Keep in mind that many new and interesting online training opportunities have emerged since this data was first collected. Online learning is becoming an increasingly popular method for accessing training and resources for both staff and volunteers. The CLO publications webpage has many resources related to the subject of online training.

The Internet has grown in leaps and bounds and many new online training opportunities are available via websites, podcasts, online videos and other sources.

An Agency Wishlist
CLO’s Value Added research found that literacy agencies have their own wish list when it comes to ongoing training and support for volunteers.

  • Any kind of training that is online
  • More print and/or web-based materials
  • More conferences in the literacy field that are available to volunteers
  • Specific training related to the learners they are working with, especially those with learning disabilities
  • Training manuals
  • Additional financial resources to offer training
  • Resources and opportunities for training for administrative volunteers (not just literacy tutoring)

Open communication with agency staff
More than any other type of support volunteers felt that open communication with staff members was essential for fulfilling their responsibilities. Communicating with volunteers is a simple way to demonstrate your support for their efforts. It helps volunteers feel more connected to the organization. Although the onus should be on program staff to communicate with volunteers on a regular basis, be sure your volunteers know they can contact you at any time for help or advice!

Let volunteers know that you will call or email them regularly. For tutors you may want to contact them more frequently when they are first matched with a student. Check in with board or committee members after meetings to thank them for their help or ask if they have any questions. Set up a regular check in time with volunteers involved in providing technical or administrative support.

It can be difficult to reach volunteers during the day. Contacting them would be easier if you ensure you get a current email address or cell phone number. Also, in the application form, you can ask volunteers to give you both an evening and daytime telephone number.