I had an interesting experience recently during a deployment to Whanganui after the flooding. My son and I are both members of an emergency response team, and we have both been in this team since it formed four years ago.
While were waiting to be tasked I was asked whether Matthew had completed his basic training. The question was clearly due to his age, but Matthew just so happens to be one of the most qualified and experienced members of this team. His much older colleague however was not fully trained, but was not asked.
Perhaps the question could have been asked of all volunteers, has everyone completed their training, rather than just to the youth.
Our evidence shows that a lot of young people volunteer, with around 900 under 25s registering with Volunteering Waikato in the past year – a third of our registrations. So why are they often not staying for long?
It seems to me that for many young volunteers committing to a role that requires a long term commitment is not realistic – they may have no idea where they will be in six months’ time. We in the ‘volunteer industry’ refer to this as ‘churn’ - high numbers of young people volunteering, but often for a short time, resulting in regular or constant recruitment. This churn also affects paid employment.
For some young volunteers however, the reason that they may not stay long is about value, appreciation and belonging. How are they being treated by other staff and volunteers? How do those who are older interact with younger volunteers?
I think it is a common mistake to assume that youth equates to a lack of skills or experience. This can be demotivating and frequently very untrue. Sure, young people have had less time to gather life experience, but they have experience, skills and education that many of their elders have not.
If we treat youth like they are lesser – why would they stay and give us their time?
This was an opinion piece by Heather Moore – General Manager – published in the Hamilton Press