How to get ahead in … training in the voluntary sector

How to get ahead in … training in the voluntary sector

As more employees train outside work, there is the danger that development will get pushed aside


training voluntary sector

The number of employees getting training in work fell over the last year. Photograph: Bloomimage/Getty Images / BloomImage RF

On-the-job training and development for people working in the voluntary sector is disappearing, according to latest workforce figures. The number of people who have received in-work training fell by nearly a quarter to 24.8% – in the 12 months ending September 2012, according to an analysis of the labour force survey published by Skills – Third Sector , the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Third Sector Research Centre.

Staff are instead investing in training in their own time; the number of employees admitting they have spent time on their own professional development outside of office hours rose by 40.9% in the same period, the statistics show.

Keith Mogford, chief executive of Skills – Third sector says: “I think we certainly have a concern about the climbing percentage of people getting trained outside of their work time but it is difficult to know how much that training relates to their needs in their current role or their potential progress in the sector. I think the two figures suggest that training budgets are being cut.”

Veronique Jochum, research manager at NCVO, says the organisation wants statistics to be highlighted because during “hard times” there is a danger that training and development will get pushed aside. She says: “Carry on developing your staff, it does not have to be expensive, maybe do it in a more creative way where you do not have to invest much money.” Guaranteeing value for money in return for investment is critical, says Mogford. “It’s not just about looking for things which are free. It’s about spending the money you have more wisely and having procurement which is effective.”

So what recommended options are available to those responsible for developing their organisation’s workforce? One possibility is to fulfill training needs online. The NCVO’s StudyZone offers the chance to buy specific online training packages. The Skills-Third Sector Links initiative – the £1m interactive online site announced last summer, which aims to share best practice in workforce development and which will host a database of training and development providers – will be another option.

The NCVO’s “a day in the life” programme, where staff can spend a day shadowing a civil servant, is already a popular choice for employees. Launched three years ago, the scheme has so far involved about 800 “job swaps” and is available with any civil servant from permanent secretary down.

Cross sector collaboration, and secondments, can also be useful, says Mogford. “There has been a lot of attention given in the last year to cross-sector collaboration and how organisations can bring in experts for pro bono work from the private or public sectors; but there has been less attention given to pro bono work and the sharing of expertise in the sector itself.”

Organisations collaborating together to buy training packages is another idea that can help to cut costs; offering vacant training seats to other organisations on how in-house training could also be developed. “If your organisation has bought 10 places but the room can accommodate 15 then why not push out these spare places to other organisations?,” suggests Mogford. Conducting a staff skills audit can also be useful in indentifying any hidden talent: “A skills audit is a low-cost activity and we have tools to help organisations do them,” he says.

Joining online forums or communities of practice are suggestions from NCVO. “I think people should be combining a number of solutions – doing some shadowing and engaging in online forums – it’s not a question of following just one route,” says Jochum.

The trend for staff to take responsibility for their own training outside of office hours may suggest that they have little time in the workplace to address their training needs, according to Jochum. But she says the pattern could also mean that staff are committed to their own development. “It does mean that staff want to further their own skills and have a real thirst for development, so in some ways it can be seen as a positive trend.”

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