Welcome to
Volunteer Youth

YOU'VE JUST HIT ON A WEBSITE LIKE NO OTHER -- AND ONE THAT COULD HAVE A REAL IMPACT on your life! Come explore new frontiers and discover the world of opportunities that volunteering could hold for you. You'll learn how to claim your own territory as a volunteer. And, you'll find out how serving your community can help equip you with the skills and experience you'll need to confront the 21st century.

A word of caution, though. This is a major stop on the information highway, not a quick cyberfix. It's a learning lab where you can access all kinds of information that can help launch your future as an active citizen and also give you an edge as you prepare to take on the labour market. There are lots of valuable tips and tactics... plus hyperlinks galore. What's more, the site is designed for easy downloading.

Get ready to chart new territories as you travel through:

To probe more deeply into a topic or hotlink to a related site, just click on any underlined text. You may be very surprised where you end up!

a super way to connect with your community,
interact with others and hyperlink to valuable skills and experience.

The Volunteer Zone
Volunteer now and help forge the future you're about to inherit!

Youth: volunteering for a better tomorrow
What exactly is volunteering?
Why do people volunteer?
Canadian volunteering through time: a quick sketch
The vital role of volunteers today

Youth: volunteering for a better tomorrow
Violence, prejudice, drug abuse, poverty, alienation: these are the critical social issues of the 1990s. In communities across Canada, youth people are channeling their energy and talents into finding solutions to these problems and helping individuals deal with them.

Youth are active in everything from cleaning up the environment to helping young children learn to read... from advocating for support for street youth to visiting elderly people in nursing homes. Some work through youth groups, voluntary organizations or schools. Others get together on their own with friends and peers to lend a hand where they've seen a need. By getting involved in hands-on ways, these youth volunteers are helping to shape the world around them, rather than letting it shape them. What's more, the experience they're gaining will be a definite advantage in the future.

What exactly is volunteering?
Volunteers are regular people who donate their time to help individuals, organizations and causes by personal choice and without pay. Volunteering is an expression of concern about someone or something other than yourself. It's about going the distance to help your fellow citizens or working with others who share a common goal... it's about putting your values and beliefs into action, sometimes quietly and sometimes boldly... it's about being an active citizen and building a stronger community.

Volunteering goes under many different names: helping out, getting involved, being a good citizen, giving a service, tackling issues, having a voice, advocating for change, etc. You can also volunteer in a variety of ways: working for a formal organization, getting involved with a group that has formed spontaneously in response to a need, or helping out on your own as a good neighbour'.

Why do people volunteer?

Why would anyone chose to do work without getting paid? For the satisfaction that comes from providing a needed service, helping solve a community problem or promoting a cause you passionately believe in. Or, perhaps because you're looking for new challenges, new experiences and new skills. For many volunteers, both sets of factors come into play.

What motivates young people in particular? Here are the findings of a recent survey done by the Youth Volunteer Corps of Canada:

  1. I wanted to help others. (This was the favourite response by far.)
  2. It sounded like fun.
  3. I wanted to meet new people.
  4. I had nothing else to do.
  5. My parents encouraged me.
  6. I wanted to learn job skills.
  7. It looks good on a résumé.
  8. My friends encouraged me.

Why should you volunteer? For any or all of the reasons mentioned above. Plus, your community really needs the energy, creativity and fresh perspectives that youth have to offer!

Canadian volunteering through time: a quick sketch
The volunteer spirit is deeply rooted in Canadian society. You might even say that it's one of those things that defines us as Canadians. Over the years, volunteers have be a powerful force they've helped countless individuals, strengthened our communities and molded our societal values. Not only that, they've also had a profound impact on government policy!

The first volunteer organization was founded in 1688 in Quebec City to help the many residents who had lost everything in a ravaging fire. Over the next 200 years, charities run by religious organizations were the major source of relief for Canadians who were sick, elderly, orphaned or penniless. The late 19th century saw the rise of independent volunteer organizations, such as the St John Ambulance, the Canadian Red Cross Society and the YM/YWCA. Social reform movements, including women's groups lobbying for the right to vote, also mushroomed during that period.

Did you know that the formal programs of support that have helped make Canada the envy of the world our system of universal health care and our so-called "social safety net" were pioneered by volunteers? Beginning early in the 20th century, and especially after the two World Wars with the Great Depression sandwiched in between, volunteer organizations persuaded the government to take more responsibility for the health and social well-being of its citizens.

Today, volunteers continue to work hard providing services that respond to current needs and advocating for changes that would make the quality of life in our communities even better. But the earlier notion of charity as dependence on others has disappeared. The goal is now to empower individuals from disadvantaged groups by making them more self-reliant.

The vital role of volunteers today

Evident from earliest times, the dedication of Canadian volunteers has remained rock-solid. In the 1990s, they supply the human energy that drives hundreds of thousands of organizations and community groups across the country. The services volunteers inject into our voluntary sector are valued at $16 billion a year more than the wage bill in such major Canadian industries as forestry, agriculture, or mining and oil. Phenomenal, don't you think?

Volunteers are active in an enormous range of areas: social service, health, education, heritage, sports, recreation, arts, culture, environmental protection, crime prevention and international development. They help run food banks, emergency shelters and crisis hotlines. They manage recreational programs, little league teams and cultural groups. They serve in our hospitals, schools and museums. They teach literacy skills, help protect the environment and make our communities safer. They help immigrants adjust to their new life in our country and assist people in developing countries all over the world. Plus so much more!

Whether on the front-line helping others, on fundraising committees, or on boards of directors for voluntary organizations, volunteers play a critical role in our society. They plan, organize and deliver an enormous range of services in our communities. They also advocate for worthy causes and promote social equality.

Imagine for a moment what would happen to your community if every volunteer was suddenly to quit. Just think about the impact on the lives of so many Canadians... on the lives of people you know!

The Opportunity Zone
Volunteering offers real opportunity, real experience,
and the chance to make a real difference in your community.
So, get real!

The volunteer advantage
Gaining work experience through volunteering

The volunteer advantage
As a volunteer, you will most likely find your experiences rewarding. When you donate your time to help individuals, organizations and causes, you also receive real advantages for yourself. A sense of doing something really worthwhile... a feeling of being accepted and valued... interesting and challenging experiences... a chance to take on new responsibilities and sample different kinds of work activity... an opportunity to unlock your potential and build your skills.

Here are some of the specific benefits volunteering could offer:

Gaining work experience through volunteering

Can't get a job without experience? Can't get experience without a job? Volunteering could be the answer because it's a superb way to get the practical experience and tested' skills that employers are demanding. It also gives you the feeling of confidence that comes only from having experienced something first-hand.

Times are tough for young people preparing to enter the labour market. No kidding, eh? It's lean and mean out there, and the level of skills required seems to be skyrocketing everywhere. But volunteering can give you an edge when you make the transition from school to the paid workplace. It's a proven way to gain valuable skills and practical knowledge. It also shows that you can function in a work environment and offers opportunities to demonstrate what you are capable of doing. Plus, volunteering allows you to build your network and even gives you experience with the dreaded interview process. All this will help you stand out from the crowd.

There's no doubt that volunteer activities have become an asset when you search for paid work. Most employers today count volunteering as valid work experience. What's more, some even make an effort to look for volunteer experience when hiring new staff because this shows that a candidate has initiative and cares about the community.

Not only that, a growing number of college and university programs are giving priority to students who are active in their community. This means that volunteer work could improve your chances of getting accepted in the program of your choice or getting a financial award (a bursary or scholarship).

There is also good evidence to suggest that volunteer involvement could increase your odds of finding a meaningful job one that really interests you and allows you to use your talents and skills, not just one that pays the bills. Because volunteering allows you to explore your interests and sample new roles, it can be an important tool in planning your worklife. You may be able to discover whether a particular type of job is really what you'd like to do over the long term or not. And you might even have the chance to try out activities that are directly related to an occupation you're considering.

Your formal education is critical to your future success in the workplace. Absolutely! But volunteering offers you concrete experiences in real-life work situations that will complement your classroom learning. This hands-on experience helps gives you an understanding of how organizations work and how you can work well with others at various levels. Plus, if you volunteer with an organization, you should be able to get the training you need to carry out your assigned duties successfully and to develop skills for the future.

In fact, if work experience is what you need, volunteering could offer a lot more opportunities than minimum-wage jobs. Because voluntary organizations (charities and non-profits) are active in so many areas, the possibilities are almost endless. These include public relations, marketing, finance, organizational management, education and training, arts and culture, science and technology not just social and health services, as you may have assumed.

Just how do you ensure that you're building a platform to the future? One way is to keep track of your volunteer experiences by creating a data bank' to use as the basis for writing your résumé, preparing applications for employment and getting ready for job interviews. If you take time to reflect upon your volunteer experiences, you'll have a better understanding of the knowledge and skills you're building. Hopefully, you'll also figure out how all this could be useful as you face a future more challenging than previous generations.

The Skills Zone
Jump-start your future--
boost your skills through volunteering!

What exactly are skills?
What makes skills 'transferable'?
What skills do employers look for?
Zeroing in on skills

What exactly are skills?
The term 'skills' refers to the entire spectrum of talents, traits and practical knowledge that each of us possesses. Skills are specialized abilities to do things well the know-how to perform a given task effectively. The important thing to remember is that skills are not static. While they may be rooted in natural-born talent, they are developed through a wide variety of experiences in life. This means that practice will help you refine your existing skills and learn new ones.

No matter what our age, we all have our own unique set of skills which help build our self-confidence and add to our self-esteem. Our skills are directly linked not only to how well we do a job but also to how fulfilled we feel doing it. Certain skills give us a lot of personal satisfaction, and these are usually the ones that we're good at. So, for any work we do to be enjoyable, we must be able to use a good number of such skills.

Of course, skills are critical to our ability to function in the paid workplace. But there's more to it than that. We also need to build our skills if we want to play an active role in our community and help find solutions to the complex challenges that face our modern society.

What makes skills 'transferable'?
Transferable skiils are the ones used in a wide range of tasks and work contexts. Take, for instance, the ability to communicate well in writing. This skill is valued in business, government, educational institutions and voluntary organizations alike not to mention, in many different types and levels of positions.

Transferable skills provide a base that allows us to adapt to new activities, new work situations or even an entirely new type of job with relative ease (that is, with a minimum of preparation and training). Consider this example: the skills you'd need as a volunteer to organize a fundraising event for a local charity are useful to, and therefore transferable to, many different kinds of jobs in the labour market.

All transferable skills increase your chances of finding employment. But certain skills have a higher transfer value' than others these are the ones employers judge to be the most valuable, no matter what the job or organization.

What skills do employers look for?
A few years age, the Corporate Council on Education (part of the Conference Board of Canada) carried out a major survey of employers across the country. The aim was to find out which skills are the most important for young people entering the workforce today.

These essential skills for employment can be summarized as follows:

Studies on the modern workplace also stress the need for employees who are very flexible able to cope with, and adapt to, new challenges that result from constant change in technology and in the structure of organizations. What's more, it is assumed that computer savvy will be a pre-requisite for most, if not all, of the jobs in the future.

This means that you really have to plan for the future now more than ever before. OK but what exactly does volunteering have to do with this? If you target your assignments carefully, you can build all of these job-related skills through volunteer work. The opportunity is out there.

Zeroing in on skills
Skills can be divided into three types:. core, transferable and job-specific. What's all this, you ask?

Core skills form the set of skills you'll need to enter the labour market toady. Since they form the foundation required to find and keep most jobs, they are job-readiness' skills. These core skills focus on a basic level of competence in:

And, here's something interesting: studies are showing that your level of mastery in these core skill areas is not necessarily linked to the marks you get in school!

Transferable skills are a higher order than core skills. They're needed in a wide range of jobs in many different organizations, and they can be transferred from one work setting to another. Because these skills are highly marketable, they're sure to increase your opportunities for employment.

Transferable skills relate to such areas as:

. Every job requires a unique combination of transferable skills. For instance, to work as a professional fundraiser, you need good interpersonal skills, oral communication skills, creative thinking skills, persuading skills, advanced writing skills and public speaking skills.

Job-specific skills are specialized or highly technical skills that are closely tied to the content of a specific job, to specific standards and regulations or to a specific field of knowledge. Because they cannot be readily transferred from one work setting to another, they are not as marketable as transferable skills.

Examples of activities that demand job-specific skills are:

The Action Zone
Take charge --
connect with your community!

Getting to know yourself better
Exploring options in volunteering
Preparing to take on volunteer activities
Making the commitment

Ready? Getting to know yourself better
Ok. Say you'd like to become a volunteer with an organization in your community. Before you decide how and where to get involved, you should have a clear idea of who you are as an individual. This will increase your chances of finding a volunteer role that's right for you one that will be interesting and allow you to use your talents and grow your skills.

Because most program managers are aware that a good match between the volunteer and the assigned role is critical to success, they welcome volunteers who know their strengths and express their preferences. So, take some time to think about your interests, skills, personal traits, values and concerns. This will make it easier for you to tally up your current assets and point out your potential when you apply for volunteer positions. And, you'll probably find that you already have a lot more to offer than you thought!

On your mark! Exploring options in volunteering
The number of things you could do as a community volunteer are almost endless. It's no exaggeration to say that there is something for everyone. It's a matter of exploring the possibilities and targeting a role that really suits you. And, when you weigh the options, don't forget that boards of directors and planning committees of all sorts need input from youth.
If you live in an urban area, check out your local volunteer centre. (Your high school, college or university may even have a volunteer clearinghouse that is linked to the volunteer centre.) The volunteer centre is the hub of a wide network of voluntary organizations and community agencies that rely on volunteers. One of its primary roles is to match the interests of individuals or groups wishing to volunteer with the needs of organizations in the community. If you don't have access to a volunteer centre, you'll have to go directly to organizations which interest you. Talk to friends, family, neighbours and school guidance counsellors to see what organizations they would suggest. Find out whether your local newspaper carries volunteer wanted' ads for community organizations and check out the web sites of voluntary organizations. (Many of these sites can be accessed through the Charity Village site (http://www.charityvillage. com/charityvillage/main.html.)

Get set! Preparing to take on volunteer activities
Once you've narrowed down the options, it's time for the reality check. Before you make your decision, find out more about the volunteer positions that grab your interest and make certain that the role will satisfy your own needs. For one thing, your assignment should challenge you but it shouldn't be too big a stretch. If you're not sure that a volunteer position is a good fit, it probably isn't.

To figure out whether a volunteer role is right for you, start by asking for a written description of the position. This should clarify the following points:

Next, visit the organization to get a sense of the overall environment and more information on the position. If you're asked to go to a formal interview, look at this as an opportunity to get the answers to your own questions. For instance, you'll want to be very sure that you'll get the support you need to do the assignment well.

Here are some questions to ask:

Many organizations and community agencies have a manager of volunteers, who would be your main contact. Either a staff member or an experienced volunteer, this individual is responsible for planning volunteer activities and for recruiting and supporting volunteers.

You'll be amazed how sophisticated the field of volunteer management is. It's fully recognized today that all volunteers have talents and interests that must be carefully matched with volunteer positions. That's why volunteers are screened, placed, trained and supported in a way that will give them the best chance of succeeding at their job. The guiding principle is this: the more you get out of your volunteer experience, the more you'll give back to the organization.

A well-run organization will try its best to meet the expectations of its volunteers. But, don't loose sight of the fact that the organization exists to meet its stated goals to serve a specific client group, to promote a specific cause or to solve a specific problem. Any involvement of volunteers must be towards that end.

Also, don't be surprised if you have to go through a thorough screening process, especially if the assignment involves working one-to-one with clients. This may include in-depth interviews, reference checks and even background checks. True, this may be a bit intimidating but keep in mind that the issue here is protection your own, the clients' and the community's.

If you're thinking about volunteering for the very first time, the idea may seem a little overwhelming. Here are some tools that should give you a good sense of what is involved and help increase your comfort level.

Go! Making the commitment
Once you've chosen the volunteer role that seems the best fit for you, go for it. Let your adrenaline pump, and good luck! Hey, you'll probably even have some fun.

The Info Zone
Expand your horizons --
plug in to youth groups and to career-related information!

This zone is hotlinked to web sites offering information and ideas that could be important to your future, both as a citizen and a wage-earner.

Youth connection
Future focus

Youth connection

Are you interested in getting in touch with key youth groups in Canada or finding out about youth volunteer projects? Here are some hot leads... for on-line and off.

Youth Action Network
Suite 410
67 Richmond Street West
Toronto, Ontario, M5H 1Z5

(416) 368-2277

YAN is a national, youth-run organization with a mission to empower young Canadians to take action on social and environmental issues. YAN's Resource Action Centre connects young people with the information and contacts they need to take action and publishes a print magazine four times a year. YAN also works to persuade our education systems to actively encourage students to get more involved in pressing local and global issues.

In partnership with other national youth organizations, YAN organizes Youth Week each May. The aim is to encourage young people across Canada to become more active in their communities and in global issues. In 1996, a very cool web site was developed by
TG Magazine (http://www.tgmag.ca) to promote this special week. This included the 'Community Centre' where youth were able to dialogue with peers from around the world on topics of interest, as well as hyperlinks to all sorts of super sites for youth. Stay tuned for the 1997 version.

Generation 2000 (http://www.web.net/~gen2000)
Run by youth for youth, G2K encourages dialogue among Canadian youth on topics relevant to them and their future, promotes regional and cultural understanding, and aims to inspire young people to get more involved in their communities.

The National Tour sends volunteers (aged 18 to 25) to schools and community centres across Canada twice a year to discuss key issues with young people and encourage their active participation in community and social issues. The Action Network helps young people carry out their own local or national projects. And the SCREAM Computer Network provides a forum for 'real-time' interaction among young people on critical issues and on the projects they're undertaking.

The web site being created by G2K promises to be a gold mine of information on carrying out a youth project or starting a youth group. You definitely won't want to miss this one!

Youth Volunteer Corps of Canada
Suite 720
640-8th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta
T2P 1G7

Tel: (403) 266-5448
Fax (403) 264-0266

The mission of the Youth Volunteer Corps is to increase volunteer opportunities for youth, address community needs and promote a lifetime of commitment to community by the youth who participate. Young people can chose from a wide variety of projects, and they're provided with training, support and leadership opportunities.

Based on the popular American model, the YVC began in Canada in 1992 with Child Friendly Calgary. Funding from the Kahanoff Foundation now supports a national office which has a mandate to promote the YVC model in communities across Canada. So far, the program has been adopted in four other cities in Alberta (Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Edmonton) and is coming soon to Ottawa.

The YVCC is planning to be on the Net very soon. We'll keep you posted.

Youth Service Canada (YSC) (http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/hrdc/youth/ysc) is a national program run by Human Resources Development Canada. It offers financial support for special youth projects which aim to give young people hands-on experience and skills through service to their community. Their web site will tell you all about the program and give you examples of youth projects receiving support.

Youth -Link (http://www.pch.gc.ca/Csy-ecj/cse/eCS_YP/eYP04.htm)
A project of the Canadian Studies and Youth Program of Canadian Heritage, Youth-Link joins students across Canada for live discussions about the issues and concerns of young Canadians today. Themes for discussions are chosen by teachers, academics and departmental officials, with input from youth.

Future focus
If you'd like information on career planning, job searching and the labour market of the 1990s and beyond, check out these web sites. If the name is underlined, the link is live.

The Edge (http://www.globalx.net/ocd/edge/home.html)
Sponsored by Human Resources Development Canada, this site focuses on the transition from school to paid work. It's a special edition of T(oday's) G(eneration) Magazine, a bilingual internet magazine for Canadian teens, that is full of hints and tips that could be incredibly useful as you plan your future. Don't miss the 'Job Trek', a fun way to get a better handle on your strengths and interests and on suitable occupations.

Job Futures (http://youth.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/link/index.html)
Created by Human Resources Development Canada, this web site gives up-to-date information on the world of work today and on future projections for specific occupations.

On-line Career Centre (http://www.etc.bc.ca/provdocs/careers/home.html)
Developed by British Columbia's Ministry of Education, Skills and Training for students at the high school level, this site focuses on career planning and on concerns facing young people today. Advice is offered on how to research career options, choose a career and find an appropriate job. You'll also find current information on the labour market and employment trends in Canada.

The Career Centre (http://www.charityvillage.com/charityvillage/pubstuff.html)
This component of the Charity Village site posts job openings in Canadian voluntary organizations. It will give you an idea of the range of places that a career path in the voluntary sector could take you.

The Next Step (http://www.roccplex.com/nextstep)
This US-based E-'zine (small electronic magazine) is aimed at high school students who want to learn about various careers and how to prepare for them. It also highlights social issues of particular concern to youth.

CanWorkNet (http://www.canworknet.ca)
This is a terrific site for anyone searching for paid work or looking for information about the world of work today. It's a directory of the electronic databases on employment opportunities in Canada. If you're serious about cyberhunting for a job, there are literally hundreds of web sites to check out.

Emploi (http://www.login.net./emploi-a/public_html/)
This is an electronic job centre for French-speaking Canadians of all ages.

Published by Community Partnerships, a program of the Department of Canadian Heritage
community_partners hips@pch.gc.ca