Please read Volunteer Policy below or download PDF Volunteer Policy here.
The purpose of this Volunteer Policy is to provide volunteer engineers with clear guidelines on all aspects of volunteering with the STEPS programme.
Volunteering policy statement
The Engineers Ireland STEPS programme seeks to involve suitable volunteers to promote the awareness and understanding of engineering as a career choice among primary and post-primary students, teachers and parents.
We acknowledge and value the contribution of volunteers and undertake to organise our volunteer programme effectively. Volunteers are the life blood of our organisation and we aim to train, support and oversee our volunteers to the best of our ability and to act quickly and fairly if difficulties arise.
1.0 Background to organisation:
1.1 The Engineers Ireland STEPS programme encourages primary and post- primary students to explore the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) while also promoting engineering as a career choice. STEPS is managed by Engineers Ireland and supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Education and Skills, and a number of major engineering employers.
1.2 STEPS works in strategic partnership with Science Foundation Ireland on Smart Futures, a collaborative government-industry-education programme promoting STEM careers to post-primary students in Ireland. All STEPS post-primary activity is part of the national Smart Futures programme.
2.1 To provide and develop a policy on volunteering so that good and consistent practice is used with regard to involving volunteers.
2.2 To respect and accommodate the diversity of volunteers’ backgrounds.
3.1 The STEPS team are responsible for ensuring that the policy and the procedures in this document are implemented efficiently and effectively. All STEPS volunteers are expected to facilitate this process.
4.1 STEPS is firmly committed to creating a culture in which diversity and equality are actively promoted.
4.2 There’s always room for volunteers with STEPS and STEPS will consider involving any engineer over 18 years old as a volunteer. STEPS encourages those from a variety of backgrounds, disciplines, cultures, nationalities, gender and age to get involved.
4.3 STEPS and volunteers are encouraged to embrace diversity among co-workers.
5.0 General Principles:
5.1 Relationship with paid staff
STEPS does not aim to introduce volunteers to replace paid staff. STEPS expects and encourages that staff at all levels will work positively with volunteers.
5.2 Code of Conduct
Volunteers are expected to work within the policies and procedures of STEPS and adhere to its ethos. As representatives of STEPS and Smart Futures, volunteers are responsible for presenting a positive image of STEPS and Smart Futures to the outside world.
Volunteers with STEPS will:
• Portray a positive image of STEPS and Smart Futures.
• Prepare for the volunteer role by attending regular training sessions, reviewing STEPS presentation materials and referencing the STEPS and Smart Futures websites' resources.
• Wear clothes appropriate to their responsibilities; they should be clean and tidy at all times.
• Report for their volunteer role in a timely manner and free from influence of alcohol and drug related substances.
• Show respect and consideration at all times for fellow volunteers of STEPS, members of the public and other volunteers.
• Encourage a young person with positive words at all times.
• Keep staff informed of progress, concerns and problems with the role.
• Keep personal opinions and actions separate from those made as representatives of STEPS.
• Avoid activity that could be considered detrimental to STEPS and Smart Futures and which could specifically result in personal injury to themselves, other volunteers or a member of the public.
• Report any accidents or injuries while volunteering.
• Endeavour to follow all STEPS policies and procedures that apply to their role.
• Volunteer with the STEPS programme at least twice per year.
The nature of volunteering with STEPS and Smart Futures means that STEPS volunteers will come in contact with young people (less than 18 years of age). It is important that volunteers should not be in a situation where they are left alone with a young person.
Volunteers of STEPS will not:
• Physically touch a young person; (handshakes are acceptable)
• Contact a young person directly in any way (via email, text, befriend on social media, phone or arrange to meet in person after the activity).
• Take photos/videos of a young person unless their teacher/parent has completed a consent form.
• Use vulgar or inappropriate language, or make remarks that could be considered offensive.
• Discriminate on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status or disability, and/or sexual orientation.
• Take any action that could threaten the health or safety of themselves, a young person, other volunteers or members of the public.
5.3 Speaking to the media
Before speaking to the media on behalf of STEPS or Smart Futures, volunteers must obtain permission from their main contact in STEPS.
STEPS respects the volunteer's right to privacy and confidentiality. In turn, volunteers are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of all privileged information to which they are exposed while volunteering with STEPS and Smart Futures.
5.5 Data Protection
Volunteer data is held on the secure SmartSTEPS database, which is accessed by the STEPS team at Engineers Ireland and by Science Foundation Ireland(Smart Futures team).
Volunteer data is used to manage, administer and evaluate volunteer-related activities such as school visits, career events, training, career profiles and for contacting volunteers directly. Volunteer data will only be used in relation to Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme activity, including Smart Futures, and for no other purpose.
The STEPS team will send out information regularly regarding STEPS and Smart Futures events and other information through various email and phone campaigns. If volunteers do not wish to receive this information they may contact the STEPS team and ask to be removed from the distribution list.
Requests regarding this data protection are welcomed and should be addressed to Engineers Ireland STEPS programme (including Smart Futures), 22 Clyde Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 or email@example.com
6.1 Role descriptions and volunteer opportunities
Volunteers are provided with a clear and accurate description of the tasks and responsibilities for each volunteer opportunity, project or event. The role descriptions for each volunteer opportunity are available at www.steps.ie/volunteer. STEPS is willing to engage with volunteers in other ways that fit with our aims and objectives. An individual or group may approach STEPS with suggestions for additional volunteer opportunities.
Applicants for volunteering opportunities are asked to complete an application form which is available at www.steps.ie/volunteer. Volunteers are recruited in accordance with STEPS’ Equality and Diversity statement. All volunteers are required to complete an application form.
6.3 Terms and Conditions
When a potential volunteer fills out the application form they are asked to agree to the terms and conditions of the STEPS Volunteer Agreement, abide by the Volunteer Policy and agree to attend or complete training.
All applicants are asked to provide the names and contact details of two people (not relatives) who know them well and who are happy to provide a reference.
Prospective volunteers will take part in a short phone interview so that both the prospective volunteer and STEPS can find out more about each other, in order to ascertain the prospective volunteer's interest in, and suitability for, the role.
Given the need to match the right volunteer with the right role, STEPS regrets that it may not be able to accept every application, for a range of reasons. A volunteer not suited to the role will be encouraged, if feasible, to try a different activity or organisation.
6.7 Garda Vetting
Any volunteer who may have unsupervised access to children must undergo Garda Vetting as part of their recruitment process.
The STEPS team requires all volunteers volunteering on behalf of STEPS more than eight times per annum to undergo Garda Vetting. STEPS, Engineers Ireland reserves the right to vet volunteers at any time during the course of their involvement with STEPS.
All disclosures to STEPS are treated in strict confidence; any that are deemed of serious concern will be discussed with the volunteer in the first instance.
6.8 Volunteer Participation
Volunteers are expected to volunteer with the STEPS programme at least twice per year. Most opportunities will be available during the school term months of September to June.
7.0 Induction and Training
7.1 Volunteer Training
Volunteers are expected to complete online induction training, attend regular training and update their own training record.
Training will be made available to the volunteers during the year, details of which will be circulated by email.
The STEPS team will track volunteers training through the SmartSTEPS system. Each volunteer has their own training record called My CPD on the SmartSTEPS system and should keep this up to date.
7.2 Information Sessions
Regional and company information sessions are carried out with engineers interested in volunteering with STEPS. Information sessions cover: what is STEPS, what is Smart Futures, why volunteers are needed, the benefits of volunteering, the different ways volunteers can get involved with the programme and the volunteer recruitment process.
Volunteers will receive an informal induction to STEPS. All volunteers receive an induction email consisting of a general introduction to STEPS and Smart Futures and login details for SmartSTEPS.
The induction email links volunteers to the online STEPS volunteer induction. It is very important that all volunteers review the training page as part of their induction to the STEPS programme.
7.4 Online Volunteer Training
STEPS volunteers are located nationwide and off-site. Due to the nature of volunteering with STEPS, a dedicated page for online training is available on the STEPS website. It is important that all volunteers review the online training page regularly and will be reminded to do so frequently through the volunteer eNewsletter.
The online volunteer training page includes volunteer training videos, volunteer resources, communication tips, volunteer policies and child protection guidelines.
7.5 Training, networking and support sessions
Volunteer training, networking and support sessions are available for new and current volunteers. Training, networking and support sessions will be made available in companies wherever there is sufficient demand and available resources, and once a year in the following Engineers Ireland Regions:
o An Ríocht
7.6 Additional Training
From time to time, additional training may be identified as necessary for certain volunteer roles or projects of STEPS or Smart Futures. We will inform volunteers of the availability of this training and open it to all STEPS volunteers who may require it for certain projects.
8.1 Contact Person
All volunteers offering a regular commitment will have a named person as their main contact. Volunteers are supported through the following:
• Having a clear role description.
• Having an opportunity to express their views through online surveys.
• A phone call once a year.
• Occasional regional volunteer group meetings.
• A main contact will always try to be available to volunteers who require support in areas that are affecting their performance.
8.2 Buddy System
A buddy system is available informally for new volunteers. New volunteers can buddy with an existing volunteer in their local area to support each other.
SmartSTEPS is the CRM system which STEPS uses for managing volunteer activity. Each volunteer will have their own unique login and volunteer page on the SmartSTEPS system.
Volunteers can view and select volunteering opportunities, record their CPD and chat with other STEPS volunteers through the SmartSTEPS system.
The STEPS team will frequently communicate with volunteers by phone and email reminding them to logon to SmartSTEPS to view and select volunteer opportunities.
Volunteers are expected to log on regularly to SmartSTEPS and keep their contact details up to date.
8.4 Volunteer eNewsletter
Volunteers will receive a regular eNewsletter every two months which will provide them with up to date news and information on upcoming volunteer opportunities and news from the STEPS and Smart Futures programmes. Other regular email communication will also be sent to volunteers when deemed necessary.
8.5 Support Sessions
Where possible, support sessions will be made available in the following Engineers Ireland Regions:
o An Ríocht
The sessions are a chance for STEPS volunteers to come together informally to share tips, discuss what is and isn’t working and to network together. All volunteers should attend one training, networking & support session or support session in their region each year.
8.6 Unrealistic Demands
A large number of STEPS volunteers volunteer independently and remotely. Volunteer can refuse demands they consider unrealistic or that they do not have the skills to carry out. It is important that a STEPS staff member is informed if the volunteer is faced with a situation beyond the scope of the role.
8.7 Settling Difficulties
We aim to identify and resolve problems at the earliest possible stage and we ask volunteers to communicate issues or concerns to us as soon as they arise.
In the event of a problem arising, complaints should be raised on an informal basis with the person best able to resolve the situation. Where an informal approach is not appropriate, a formal complaint should be made in writing, addressed to Dee Kehoe, CPD Director. The CPD Director will respond to the complaint within five working days of receipt.
In the event of a complaint arising against a volunteer, a meeting with the volunteer and Dee Kehoe, CPD Director shoulld lead to resolution.
8.8 Asking a volunteer to leave
Volunteers who do not perform their volunteer role satisfactorily will be supported to do so correctly. If the problem has not been resolved after a number of attempts to support the volunteer, their role with STEPS may be ended. Grounds for being asked to cease volunteering include, but are not limited to, failure to abide by STEPS Code of Conduct, policies and procedures and failure to complete duties to a satisfactory standard.
8.9 Leaving STEPS
While we place great value on volunteer involvement, volunteers have the option to leave STEPS at any time. It is important that a STEPS staff member is informed when this happens.
Where a volunteer requests a reference from STEPS, a record of their volunteering through the SmartSTEPS system will be provided by the main contact in an email. The SmartSTEPS record will include number of school visits, career events and CPD completed along with verification of volunteer role.
9.0 Protecting and Valuing
STEPS is not in a position to reimburse any expenses incurred by volunteers.
Engineers Ireland is fully covered by public liability insurance to cover all volunteers actively involved with the STEPS programme. This cover applies to the place or premises where STEPS volunteer activity is carried out. It does not extend to motor insurance or to travel to and from their volunteer activity.
Volunteers will receive ongoing communication from the STEPS team. STEPS uses the following methods to communicate with volunteers:
• Social networking sites
• Face to face training and information sessions
• Face to face support sessions
STEPS highly values volunteers and will seek to show volunteers that their contribution is recognised and valued. Appreciation will be expressed through the following mechanisms to recognise the work of volunteers:
• Thanking volunteers both through our volunteer eNewsletter.
• Sending Christmas eCards.
• Hosting an annual recognition event.
• Highlighting the impact of our volunteers during National Volunteer Week and after Engineers Week annually.
• Formally thanking volunteers for their contribution.
• Recognition in the Engineers Ireland annual report
• Recognition at the Engineers Ireland conference.
• Communicating effectively with volunteers about STEPS.
• Irish rail discount scheme.
• Occasional opportunities to be featured on our website and guidebooks to promote our work.
STEPS evaluates volunteer involvement in the organisation on a regular basis and seeks to make ongoing improvements. Evaluation includes:
• Online surveys to evaluate the experience of the volunteers.
• Observation studies. A member of the STEPS team or Engineers Ireland will randomly select to attend and observe e.g. School visits, Career fairs, Engineers Week events. The goal of the observation is to assess if the needs of the participants are met and ensure volunteers have sufficient training and supports to aid them in their role.
• To conduct a focus group with school students to assess the impact of the volunteer visit on students’ perceptions and attitudes towards engineering.
• Exit feedback forms will be sent to volunteers who are leaving the programme.
• Evaluation of training workshops to help us better understand the volunteer experience of the workshop.
• Independent evaluation of the programme.
Constructive feedback on this document is always welcome. It must be given to your main contact who will ensure that it is considered fully.
This policy will be reviewed in the third quarter of each year.
Updated April 2016.