How to encourage volunteers to get trained

HALFWAY THROUGH HIS first year as a den leader, Andy Albin of Pack 61 in Austin, Texas, learned to his surprise that he was undertrained. “I realized that, although I had some training, I didn’t have all of the right training for that position,” he says. “It bothered me that there was nobody in our pack who had attempted to make that clear to everyone.” Cub Scout Corner Get Trained

Todd Birkhoff made a similar discovery when he looked around Pack 351 in McHenry, Ill. Although he was fully trained, other leaders were not, which meant boys weren’t getting the best program possible. “As long as you have a trained leader, the boys are going to have a better experience,” he says.

To fill their packs’ training gaps, Albin and Birkhoff took on the role of pack trainer, in both cases as part of their Wood Badge tickets. (For a pack trainer position description, see Page 62 of the Cub Scout Leader Book.) In the years since, they’ve more than achieved their goal of getting pack leaders through the basic training sequence of Youth Protection Training and position-specific training. Birkhoff has had many non-leader parents take Youth Protection Training, for example, while Albin has helped set a tradition of attending advanced training. “We’ve had a steady stream of adults in this pack who have taken training like Wood Badge and have encouraged others who are coming along behind them to do the same,” he says.

So how can your pack create a culture that expects and encourages training? We asked Albin and Birkhoff to share some of what they’ve learned.

Set a good example. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work with adults any more than it works with boys. It’s hard to get people to attend training when you aren’t going yourself. That’s part of why, in addition to completing Wood Badge, Albin has taken two conferences at the Philmont Training Center and is planning to take Powder Horn this year.

He also encourages leaders to wear the knots they’ve earned. “If nothing else, people will come up and ask, ‘What’s this knot for?’ and ‘What’s that knot for?’” he says.

Establish expectations. If leaders understand from the outset that training is required, they’re more likely to attend. “I’m not going to tell a person, ‘Oh, don’t worry about training,’” Birkhoff says. “No, this is the training that we’re required to do to be a trained leader. It’s going to help you, it’s going to help the boys, it’s going to help the program altogether.”

That’s just the message Birkhoff gave a new Tiger Cub den leader last spring. “Three days later, I got an envelope in the mail, and there’s all his training certificates,” he says.

Eliminate obstacles. Most new leaders are happy to get trained, but some encounter roadblocks, such as a lack of computer access for online courses. Birkhoff doesn’t take no for an answer. His message is simple: “If you need help, let me know. I’ll come over to your place.”

Keep good records. A big part of promoting training is keeping track of what courses each leader has already taken. Albin created a large spreadsheet to track completion of every available training course, along with roundtable. Since he works at an architecture firm, he has access to a plotter and was able to print a poster-size version to display at meetings. His goal: to create some friendly competition among the leaders. “I’m not sure how effective that was, but that was my intent,” he says.

It’s also important to track training dates, especially for those courses that are only good for two or three years. (You can find a list at scouting.org/training.aspx.) Birkhoff checks his records every month or so and notifies leaders of courses that will expire in the next 60 days.

Both Albin and Birkhoff encourage their leaders to keep track of their training certificates — and to turn in copies.

Getting your leaders to complete training can be tough, but it makes a difference for the boys and the adults who lead them.

15 thoughts on “How to encourage volunteers to get trained

  1. Thank you for the article. We are in the process of getting a district training committee together and I was wondering if I could get a copy of the spread sheet that Andy Albin created. Anything else would also be great. Is there any way to get in touch with him?

  2. Set the standard without a doubt!
    Even if National & Council don’t require it, there’s no reason it can’t be the standard for your pack or troop.

  3. As a Council training chair I am glad you mentioned keeping records. The unit’s records have often been at times the only proof a person took a course expecially if it was never entered into ScoutNet. The other problem with record keeping is actually on the National end with ScoutNet. That system still has faults in it such as dropping data or saying a person is not trained in a position despite it showing they had the course needed to be considered trained. The new system dashboards on myscouting.org are better but they even have shown discrepencies. ScoutNet showed me untrained as a Crew Committee Chair because of the new Venturing course yet on my dashboard it shows I am trained. National needs to address IT issues on their end to ensure we have correct records.

  4. I am working my Wood Badge ticket in this area also. I would love to take a look at the spread sheet Andy created; and to touch base with him. Might that possible?
    Thanks in advance.

  5. I applaud this trainer’s efforts to motivate and encourage his peers. As a district training chairman, a pack trainer, and troop training rep, I encourage NOT using home-grown spreadsheets which don’t share the records online with everyone at the unit, district, & council who need that training info. Get and validate the exported “Trained/Not trained” files from ScoutNET monthly (via the council staff), then update/correct what’s wrong or missing via the council registrar and/or using the new MyScouting Tools site. Insist that registered Scouters add their BSA member # to their MyScouting account (only use ONE account) to automatically update the council & unit records which can be accessed 24/7 by the Scouter, unit leaders, district, and council staffs. We do this religiously and it WORKS!

  6. Former District training chair, and still on the district training team. I DO use my own, home-grown spreadsheet to keep track of unit training, and also district awards, but I use “Training Verification” and “unit Training Tracking” to get the data to populate it. This allows me to get information to units concerning what training has and has not been taken in a graphical format. I’ve found that the best-trained units are those where there is a “training champion” within the unit that can change the culture within the unit, until the unit decides to make training a requirement, instead of an option. Unit and District commissioners also note that the best-trained units are the ones least in need of their help.

  7. I would say ditto to what Doug states above. The closer you can get to the actual training records the better and the tools now available via my.scouting.org make that possible.

    Our pack does everything electronically if possible to minimize the chance for errors – again, using the tools available at my.scouting.org.

    Using many of the same efforts pointed out in this article, I had the pleasure of providing 11 volunteers at our pack meeting this past week with the Trained patch. I’ll have 2 more to award our our next Pack meeting. Awarding it in front of the scouts and other adults makes a big difference in setting that training expectation within the pack.

  8. Spreadsheet? First, let’s agree that there is no way he made up a spreadsheet of all BSA trainings, which is what, 4-6 pages long? And available on nationals website. And it’s still missing codes for things like NRA training we accept. So he made up a spreadsheet of training for unit people in his type of unit, which is limited. And which means any one of the people asking for a copy could do it in an hour themselves.

    As to wearing knots, tough. I don’t wear any knots. I maintain one shirt with awards for my kids, but with five venturing uniforms and two boy scouting I’m not putting knots on everything. Someone complained about costs, it costs a lot to maintain uniforms, too.

    But the biggest hassle is councils not keeping track of all training. They find it’s too much hassle to list things like NCS or other courses, so they don’t. Or you move and they never go record what you did elsewhere. Or you take a course they don’t offer out of council so they won’t record it.

    If it’s that important, councils would actually care about it and fix their mistakes when they’re pointed out. Not look at you as if you were a liar who never took the training. “Show me the card?” Let’s see, I took courses starting in 1975 as an adult, that card is in a storage box someplace. One of SEVERAL storage boxes. You want to try going through them all with me to prove I took a Woid Badge course in 1976?

    • Yes, my spreadsheet is a monster, with all of the training codes over time, all of the OA info, Wood Badge and critter information and the informal and formal District and Council awards – BUT – I use formulas for whether a person is trained or not (YP trained, position-specific trained and some older “fully trained” categories. I also have it done for the entire district, with an archive of past volunteers in case they get back involved. I work a lot with spreadsheets, so even though mine is much more complicated than typical, I have no problem in keeping it up-to-date, both for units to check their J2E status, and also when it comes time to recognize volunteers at our spring awards ceremony (Nobody gets recognized if they are not trained.) It takes about a week of my free time twice a year to keep it upgraded, but it’s been invaluable in helping units get trained.

      • Mike, that’s impressive, but how is it sustainable (when you’re no longer involved) and how does it enable units to use the much improved online tools BSA has provided (there’s still room for improvement) to collaboratively keep unit, district, council records current? “Teach a man to fish…”

  9. i whole wearing your knots sounds find, but only the den leaders, Cubmasters, and committee chair earn knots. Assistant Den Leaders don’t get nothing….

    • Asst den leaders and pack committee members can and should be encouraged to earn the Cub Scouter Training Award/knot. It’s open to any registered Cub Scout leader who fulfills the requirements.

  10. A bunch of seasoned leaders were talking this past weekend at the District Camporee and we all realized that the typical child in Scouting has evolved. We are seeing a lot more kids who are being treated for ADHD, Hyperactivity, Autism, and other Physical and various mental handicaps. Kids with allergies to what has been considered in the past to be staples of the Scouting Unit are popping up more and more (peanuts, ect.). We have several of these challenges that we are currently dealing with. The average parent/leader is ill equipped to address these situations and training to deal with these challenges just isn’t there. It is my hope that future training offerings, either online or on the Council/District level, will address these issues that are becoming increasingly prevalent in our units.

  11. ADLs in fact used to be able to earn the cub scouter award, now called the scouter’s training award.
    http://usscouts.org/awards/scoutertrainingC.asp
    But, as with any award, its not simply achieved through tenure but by going above and beyond. Supplemental trainings, direct activity, leadership in pack efforts.
    As to special needs training: there are national training syllabus out now for those, and they are most often done at supplemental training events, like a University of Scouting. Check your own council, but also neighboring councils as well.

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