Volunteering as Job Training?


The applications to be a volunteer at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa have begun rolling in starting this past July 20th.  This sounds like an interesting way to experience the event for anyone who couldn’t afford tickets.  However, I don’t think that particular demographic was the intended audience.

The intended audience appears to be younger folks who want to experience the event but also want to gain experience in hospitality, working with foreigners, etc.  And it seems that the program organizers intends for it to mostly benefit South Africans!  There are 15,000 expected volunteers and FIFA has declared that 80% of the volunteer spaces will go to South Africans.  What a master stroke!  Not only does this reflect well on the tournament organizers and FIFA for providing more opportunities for South Africans to be a part of the games, but it presents an amazing opportunity to essentially provide job training to 12,000, mostly young, South Africans.

As a recent article in BizCommunity.com states:

“From ushering people to their seats, to assisting the media and foreign-language speakers, welcoming people at the airport and driving guests around, it is the volunteers that actually make the tournament happen,” explained Dr Jordaan.

Link to the full article can be found here: http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/147/38082.html

The experience will be invaluable for young South Africans as they will receive a great deal of training prior to the month long event.  And they will be able to apply that training over the course of a month! Areas that volunteers will be working in are: accreditation, marketing, media, protocol services, spectator services, transportation, administration, environmental services, welcome and information services, information technology and telecommunication, language support, rights protection programme, logistic services, hospitality and ushering services and volunteer management.

I see this as a win-win opportunity for South Africans and FIFA alike.  I hope that some sponsor or corporation will also see this as an opportunity to either hire from that pool of trained volunteers or expand on the training experience after the games are over.

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2 Responses

  1. I have to say that my experience of volunteers during the Confederations Cup was not a good one. The Western Cape Provincial Government held a “FanJol” in Plettenberg Bay, as a kind of test-run for similar Province-wide events in 2010.

    We trained some 90 volunteers up to FIFA specifications. In fact, because of the training they have received FIFA accreditation.

    Some of the problem appears to be in the kind of bias which was built into the initial selection – we preferred to select unemployed people, from the local area, for what seemed to us to be obvious reasons.

    The training seemed to go well. The actual product, however, was highly problematic. Discounting the few who were hardworking, diligent and eager, it needs to be said that the majority were paid to watch the game, lounge about, stand in groups talking to each other and grab free T shirts for themselves, and elbow kids out of the way to get at food which was being distributed. They also decided to go on strike, on one day, because they objected to the quality of the food which they were being given.

    Lessons learned during this event was that firstly, we need far less volunteers per event than was previously thought. Secondly, it would be better to use people who are already within some kind of accountability structure – such as people already employed by the state. Thirdly, there has to be really tight management of volunteers, and they need to be linked into the security framework, if they are to be in any way effective. Fourthly, there needs to be some kind of code of conduct which they sign beforehand to bind them contractually into some kind of service level agreement.

  2. I really appreciate your on-the-ground insight and perspective! I hope that some of your points are lessons-learned that will be applied to the volunteering infrastructure for the event next year. I agree that volunteering is not just about the bodies but requires the appropriate infrastructure to make it useful; for the volunteers themselves as well as the staff and organizations they are supposed to be supporting.

    JK

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