How to help Young Leaders be the best they can be
Explorer Scout Young Leaders are amazing. For those not in the know, Young Leaders are young people who volunteer alongside adults in a Beaver Colony, Cub Pack, or Scout Troop. They’re usually Explorer Scouts, but they may also be young people from outside Scouts working towards their Duke of Edinburgh or Queen’s Guide Awards.
Whoever they are, and whatever their background, Young Leaders complete as they develop the skills they need to lead. They bring a lot to the table, but, like any other new volunteer, they need existing adult volunteers to support them to succeed.
It’s not a difficult task but it’s an important (and super-rewarding) one, so we’ve put together our four top tips for adult volunteers to help Young Leaders reach their potential. Remember, if you're struggling, you can speak to your Explorer Scout Leader (Young Leaders) for some extra support.
Make it work for each Young Leader
Just like adult volunteers, each Young Leader will have their own unique mix of skills, knowledge, and experiences. Check in with where they’re at, where their skills are, and what they want their time as a Young Leader to look like.
Of course, becoming a Young Leader can feel a bit daunting too. Give them the opportunity to let you know if they’ve got any worries or concerns, or if there’s an area, mission, or module they’re feeling less confident about.
Once you know your Young Leader, you can support them to get stuck in (without being thrown out of their depth). They might want to start small, and that’s OK.
When they’re ready, Young Leaders can lead games and activities and take part in planning and delivering part of the programme. Don’t forget to show them all the stuff that’s there to help, too. The is ideal for module H (Programme planning) and the missions – Young Leaders can , and use the off-the-shelf programme to get started.
After a while, once they’ve found their feet, Young Leaders may want to take on an even bigger challenge, such as setting the theme for a whole camp or gaining a leadership permit for an activity. The key is that you’re there every step of the way, encouraging them to give it a go.
Don’t just give Young Leaders the boring jobs
We understand that sometimes, it seems to make sense to ask Young Leaders (often the volunteers with the least experience) to do everyone’s least favourite tasks – the tidying up, filling water bottles, or tying laces. In reality, though, Young Leaders have a range of skills and should be equal members of a leadership team.
If Young Leaders are always stuck with the rubbish jobs, their experience as a volunteer won’t be fun or rewarding – and they won’t gain the skills the Young Leader training scheme is designed to help them develop.
Share the drink making, floor sweeping, and bin emptying equally between all of the leadership team (including your section leader). Some people take turns at everything, while others find that some people prefer certain tasks (the lucky ones might even have a keen washer-upper). However you do it, you’ll be giving all of your volunteers the best chance to gain skills, and setting a great example to the young people in the section. If you don’t show them that you ‘help other people’ and ‘do a good turn every day’, how will they learn?
Keep Young Leaders and young people safe
Young Leaders have a position of responsibility, but they’re still aged under 18, so adult volunteers need to follow the ‘Yellow Card Young People First’ code of practice ( or ) and . Young Leaders count as young people (not adults) for ratios, and if you’re staying anywhere overnight they need separate accommodation from both the young people in the section and the adult volunteers. The Orange Card is the ‘Young People First’ code of practice for Young Leaders ( or ) – make sure all Young Leaders have a copy, and that they understand it too.
Say thank you (and help Young Leaders reflect)
Young Leaders get a lot out of being volunteers, but they also give their time, skills, and energy. Don’t forget to say thank you – and make it specific, thanking Young Leaders for their contributions (whether it’s a fun game, a thoughtful activity, or a brilliant attitude).
As an adult volunteer, you’re perfectly placed to help Young Leaders reflect and recognise their successes. We all like to be encouraged, and it’s important that all volunteers recognise the stuff they’re really good at, whether they took the time to encourage a Cub to get back up and try again, or thought on their feet when a game didn’t quite work.
Take some time to think about anything that didn’t go to plan too. It’s helpful to create an environment where all volunteers (including Young Leaders) can talk about the times things go wrong. Sometimes activities are too tricky, games don’t capture everyone’s attention, or behaviour is challenging, and that’s OK. It’s a chance for people to look back at what happened, see others people’s sides, and try something different next time.
Reflecting doesn’t have to be a formal discussion – it could be a quick chat while you’re packing away equipment, or you could sit down and make it visual with pens and paper.
The Young Leader training scheme is designed to benefit adult volunteers, young people in sections, and Young Leaders; we’re really thankful to the adult volunteers who take the time to make it work. At the end of the day, everyone’s a winner: sections get the benefit of talented young people, ready to share their skills and experiences (and be a great, approachable, role model). Adult volunteers get an extra pair of hands, another perspective, and the chance to help the leaders of the future. And finally, Young Leaders get not only the fun of getting involved, but the skills they need for college, university, the job interview, the important speech, the tricky challenge, and the big dreams (in a nutshell, the skills they need for life).