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The Training Page of Volunteer Today has practical trainer techniques and activities to make orientation sessions more productive and valuable. There are also ideas to help enhance the professional volunteer manager's training level.

~ June 2006 ~ Topics

Training Young Volunteers

Training Young Volunteers

As school concludes and young people and their parents seek meaningful activities for the summer, your organization may include some young volunteers. Training children is not the same as training adults. Here are characteristics of children and tips to make the training or activity effective.

Late Teens (15 – 18)
Characteristics Training Hints
Strong desire for status in their peer group. Develop activities in training where teens are supported by one another rather than the teacher.
A large number have feelings of inferiority or insufficiency. Create activities with successful outcomes for everyone. Avoid lots of competitive games, unless they are group oriented and fun.
Working on a personal life philosophy. Provide activities in training to help them explore how their experience as a volunteer can help them learn who they are as a person.
Are interested in world events and may have Internet friends from other countries. Encourage discussion of how the world is impacted by the work of the organization and its volunteers.

Early Teens (13-14)
Characteristics Training Hints
Peer pressure is strong, first from same sex, then from opposite sex. Use peer pressure to provide encouragement to all in the group. And individualize it.
Want to make their own decisions, but still need some guidance. Provide parameters for both youth and adults.
Working on social skills with adults and their peers. Provide activities in training to help them explore how to interact in appropriate ways.
Are interested in world events and may have Internet friends from other countries. Encourage discussion of how the world is impacted by the work of the organization and its volunteers.
Can be very self-conscious. Avoid asking them to stand out from the group. No demonstrations of their knowledge until he/she is comfortable.
Like to be liked.
  • Lots of approval and kudos, both from adults involved in training and from other youth.
  • Can make strong bonds with older youth and adults. Enlist others in your training.

Ages 9 – 12
Characteristics Training Hints
Are easily motivated.
  • Encouragement is a motivator.
  • Get them going as soon as possible, he/she is already motivated.
When they feel competent it enhances self-esteem.
  • Provide exercises at which he/she can succeed.
  • Help them feel good about themselves.
  • Recognize accomplishments no matter how small.
Often show loyalty to members of their own sex and antagonism to the opposite sex.
  • Get the children to select partners for exercises or activities.
  • Never force a boy-girl partnership.
Attention span is about 40 minutes.
  • Keep activities in training short.
  • Keep activities active.
Learn best when physically active.
  • Need opportunities to use physical energy.
  • Keep lectures to a minimum.
Can form special attachments to older youth.
  • Involve older youth as part of the training team.
  • Create mentor – trainee relationships.
Acceptance by peer group is important.
  • Never use put-downs in front of group.
  • Recognition comes from group with applause or rewards for all.

Want more ideas for training? Check out our online bookstore for The Great Trainer's Guide: How to Train (almost) Anyone to do (almost) Anything by Sue Vineyard. Details for Great Trainer's Book

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Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://tltc.shu.edu/npo/. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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