As former district training chair, I strongly believe in the value of training and the necessity of a good training program for our adult volunteers. I acknowledge that training is never perfect, and that leaders who complete basic training are not experts in their position. Training “wets the sponge” and sets new leaders off in the right direction.
The BSA requires Youth Protection Training, of course, before any adult can be registered in a volunteer position. But there is essentially no training requirement beyond that.
Why is this?
Sure, leaders are encouraged – and expected – to complete basic training each time they start or change positions in Scouting. Some councils state that training is required for top leaders or for all direct contact leaders, but when push comes to shove, a council will let a unit with untrained leaders slip through at recharter time rather than lose a unit. The untrained leaders state that they’ll take their training within ninety days, but they don’t follow through. An adult leader can be registered in pretty much any position for years without ever taking even Fast Start training, much less the minimal basic training.
We position ourselves as “one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations.” Parents entrust their sons to us and expect that Scout leaders know what they’re doing. Shouldn’t our adult volunteers be required to complete training before they start their jobs serving our youth?
Other Scouting organizations require training for their adult volunteers. Some quick research revealed:
- Our sisters in Scouting, Girl Scouts of the USA, requires Girl Scouting 101 of all troop leaders before starting their volunteer positions. They also require Volunteer Essentials to be taken within sixty days of appointment, and Troop Essentials for top leaders and those starting a new unit.
- For adults in the Scout Association of the United Kingdom, a three-part series of courses must be taken before a volunteer’s appointment can be moved past provisional to a full appointment. There’s also an induction process where a mentor works with the new leader to chart his or her progress through at least the first year, offering encouragement and support along the way. Adults are also expected to complete Wood Badge within three years or their appointment can be cancelled.
- Scouts Canada has a three-part required training sequence including youth safety, accessibility and position specifics, and leaders must complete the first segment of Wood Badge before the end of the first year.
Youth organizations outside of Scouting also have required training:
- Destination Imagination requires all adult team managers and assistants to fully understand the rules of the program and to take Team Manager training during their first year.
- Junior Achievement, which introduces business and personal management concepts to youth, requires training for adult volunteers before they meet with students in a classroom or after-school setting.
- In most states, high school sports referees must be trained before they can officiate games.
Why do Scouters think they can get by without being trained?
Many think they know it all or can figure it out. Some were a Scout as a youth and think that qualifies them to lead a den or be Scoutmaster. A lot of untrained people just watch and do what other, probably likewise untrained, leaders do. And if they do eventually go to training, their faulty knowledge of the program often conflicts with what they’re learning in class. They’re skeptical of these concepts that are new to them, so they reject the new and go back to the old.
Basic training should be mandatory for all adult leaders before they begin service to youth. The training certificate should be required to be submitted with the adult application. Perhaps there should be a review by the Unit Commissioner to verify that training has been completed. The signature of the chartered organization representative on the application form could be below a statement like “I hereby certify that the applicant has completed basic training”.
If, as we say, every Scout deserves a trained leader, why doesn’t the BSA make it mandatory? Are we admitting the care of our youth and the program we offer aren’t worth having trained leaders run it?