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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

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Empowering Young Leaders

Empowering Young Leaders

Young Leaders are amazing. For those not in the know, Young Leaders are young people (ages 14–17) who volunteer alongside adults in a Squirrel Drey, 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 11 modules and four missions 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 below some top tips for Squirrel leaders to help Young Leaders reach their potential.

Just like the rest of the Squirrel Leaders, 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 programme planning tool is ideal for their award – Young Leaders can filter by games or activities and use the off-the-shelf programme to get started.

Once they’ve found their feet, Young Leaders may want to take on an even bigger challenge, such as running an entire evening or gaining a leadership permit for an activity.  Community Impact is a great opportunity for Young Leaders to take a lead.  

The key is that you’re there every step of the way, encouraging them to give it a go.

We understand that sometimes it seems to make sense to ask Young Leaders 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 the Squirrel leadership.

If Young Leaders are always stuck with the rubbish tasks, their experience as a Young Leader won’t be fun or rewarding – and they won’t gain the skills the Young Leader training scheme’s designed to help them develop.

Young Leaders have a position of responsibility but they’re still aged under 18, so adult volunteers supporting Young Leaders need to follow the Yellow Card 'Young People First’ code of practice or order the Yellow Card from Scout Store and Safety and Child Protection Policies.

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 order the Orange Card from Scout Store – make sure all Young Leaders have a copy, and that they understand it too.

Young Leaders get a lot out of helping out, 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 a Squirrel Leader, 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 young person 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 helpers (including Young Leaders) can talk about the times things go wrong. 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’s designed to benefit Squirrel Leaders, young people in sections, and Young Leaders. We’re really thankful to the adults 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 great, approachable, role models).

Adults get an extra pair of hands, another perspective, and the chance to help the leaders of the future.

And 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).

Why young leaders are so important

A Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) report has found that involving Young Leaders in your Drey is a win-win-win.

It helps young people develop relationships and strong bonds, supports Young Leaders in developing Skills for Life, and benefits Scouts overall with new ideas and the retention of volunteers.

Other benefits of having Young Leaders in your Drey include:

  • They’re great role models for your Squirrels​
  • They can often relate to and understand Squirrels better ​
  • They can be brilliant at ideas for planning, or jumping in to run an activity while you’re dealing with something

Every Drey should have at least one Young Leader and this is why we've put some advice together on how and what you would need to do to recruit Young Leaders to your Drey.

Bringing together more young people ultimately means building a brighter future.

To watch in full screen, double click the video

How to empower Young Leaders

'The impact on these Young Leaders is clear and they report increased confidence and ability to take on responsibility' – CREC report

We've provided ideas and tips on how to recruit and empower Young Leaders in our Squirrel Squad Sessions. But, to make sure you’re offering the best support you can, have a think about these tips:

  • Get Young Leaders involved in the running of the Drey. It might be that you plan to meet in a place suitable and accessible for Young Leaders (perhaps a café or online) and at a time that works for them too (Doesn’t clash with Explorers or school commitments)
  • Have a conversation with your Young Leaders about the areas they'd like to develop and what excites them
  • Identify where they could develop these areas safely within the Drey and work towards their missions and modules
  • Empower them to give it a go and support them if things don’t quite go to plan – Scouts is all about learning by doing
The Young Leader Key

Young Leaders from across the country have shaped these webpages to help others make the most of their leadership journey.

Check out the Young Leader Key >

Young Leader Forums

These forums are part of our commitment to bring together our pioneering Young Leaders to offer support, build a community and share ideas, resources and activities.

They're also a great compliment to the Explorer Scout Young Leaders’ Scheme - but don’t replace it.

Sign up to the forum
Explorer Scout Young Leaders’ Scheme

The Explorer Scout Young Leaders’ Scheme is the training programme for Young Leaders. With 11 modules and four missions to complete, it provides the skills and knowledge required for Young Leaders to be successful in their role.

Find out more about the Young Leaders’ Scheme >

Young volunteers leading the way with Squirrels

Hear from some of our current Young Leaders on what they love about volunteering at their local Squirrel Drey.

Read the blog post

Volunteer joining and trustee agreement

To make sure we can keep our young people safe, we ask that everyone reads and makes sure that they understand the Volunteer Joining and Trustee Agreement.

If you have any concerns or queries, contact the Scout Support Centre.

Volunteer joining and trustee agreement