By Jarom Shaver
Apr 05, 2017

Obstacles to Training

One of the longtime struggles the LDS church and the Boy Scouts of America have had is getting leaders trained. Getting Scouting leadership trained in wards has been difficult. By the time that some of them get trained, they often transition to a new calling. Sometimes leaders only find out about training after they are already released. According to the records at the Utah National Parks Council, only 17% of leaders are getting trained (or only 17% of the training is being reported).

In a recent study done by Donovan Fleming, he discusses the reasons that motivate leaders to get trained and why some volunteer leaders choose to delay or never complete position-specific leadership training. Fleming was previously vice president of the Utah National Parks Council and also a vice president of the Mountain West Area. He  holds Scouting’s Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope awards. Here are some main takeaways from the article:

Intro and Statement of the Problem

The study was designed to examine why few adult Scouters are completing position-specific training for their current Scouting positions. It also looks into why the majority of them have not received the appropriate instruction.

Two forms of a questionnaire were designed. The questionnaires were administered to 143 adult Scouters attending the Orem District, June, 2016 roundtable. Of that total, 95 previously received position-specific training while 48 had not. Since the questionnaires were anonymous, it was reasoned that Scouters would be more candid in their responses than they might be in a face-to-face interview.

Results for Trained Leaders

One of the results that was surprising to Fleming was that one of the major reasons for leaders getting trained is the convenience of the training facility.

Also noteworthy was the fact that being invited by one’s COR, a committee chair, or friends made a difference in a Scouters’ motivation to attend a training course.

Results for Untrained Leaders

Not having time to complete training, previous position-specific received for another Scouting position being considered good enough for current role, the availability of online courses,  and family and employment issues were the principal reasons training was either delayed or not being considered. Some other related items that received modest responses were whether training made a difference and the concept that having access to Scouting handbooks is sufficient.

The most frequently cited response by the untrained Scouters was, “I haven’t had time to complete training.” The availability of online courses was indicated to be a good substitute for taking a face-to-face course.

A frequent response to the open-ended question from the untrained leaders was that they had not been informed of when or where training courses are being held.

Conclusions

As far as the trained leaders, it is evident that they are more motivated when it comes to being trained. The principle reasoning for trained leaders to receive their training is that they want to provide a good experience for the youth. They also want to have a better understanding of their role in Scouting and be essential factors for the success of their youth.

For the untrained leaders, we can conclude that many of them lack motivation to become trained. However, we can also see that there is a lack of communication between leadership on when training is being held.

The average tenure for the trained leaders was 24 months: that for the untrained leaders was eight months. It was interesting to note that 58 percent of the trained leaders were trained in their first year of service. On the other hand, 60 percent of untrained leaders had not become trained in their first year.

From these data, we can see how important it is to get leaders trained quickly if we want them to be successful and stay in the program. One big help is the recent announcement of online training for all leadership. We hope that this will help with some of the struggles the LDS church and Scouting have faced with training.

jarom
Author: Jarom Shaver | Marketing Executive, Utah National Parks Council

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3 thoughts on “Obstacles to Training

  1. David West

    Great article. I’d love to see more research driven studies like this. I suspect the lack of time reason cited is due in part to expectations that Scout leaders cover tasks that should be the responsibility of absent or non-existent committee members. For instance, in over a decade as an adult leader, I’ve never had a scout committee who planned and ran a court of honor, completed a tour permit/plan, or recruited parents to assist with an activity. Each of those tasks is specifically not the responsibility of the Scoutmaster, yet in each of our units, the burden to administer the program falls on these overworked volunteers. Until committees are in place that demands trained leaders and holds individuals accountable, I doubt there will be any improvement. It’s the moral hazard of scouting. Those who fail to do their duty are rarely those who feel the repercussions.

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  2. Anonymous

    The survey sample may not be the best, though it is a start. I’d be interested in seeing a similar survey done in other forums and/or districts to get some more data points. How many untrained leaders don’t ever make it to Roundtable? Those untrained leaders who did make it to Roundtable in order to take the survey might have significantly different attitudes towards training than untrained leaders who don’t come to Roundtable.

    As for David’s comment, I mostly agree. I am a Committee Chair, have been for several years. Unfortunately, I have spent most of that time alone with no committee members to assist me. I have been through a few CORs who were untrained, never attended Roundtable, and were hardly involved. We cycle through Scout leaders every 4-6 months. Some start training, others refuse. Our unit commissioners are nowhere to be seen. In my perspective, it is difficult for the Committee to demand anything from the bottom-up when the COR, IH, and Unit Commissioners are not demanding and expecting better from the top-down.

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