When the MTN Sciencentre was established 10 years ago, a Volunteer Programme was introduced to help assist with the number of people needed to facilitate a science centre that has over 360 hands-on exhibits and is open to everyone 363 days a year! Being a non-profit educational institution whose mandate is to make science as accessible as possible, it is important to keep the entry fees as low as possible. One way to achieve this was to introduce a Volunteer Programme to supplement the permanent staff complement. Volunteer Programmes have become an integral feature to keep operational costs low in science centres across the world.
Evolution of the Volunteer Programme at our Science Centre
The programme presented many challenges and benefits but, most importantly what transpired was the exciting opportunity to empower young matriculating school leavers with little or no immediate prospects in the job market. These individuals quickly learnt that by volunteering their time at the Science Centre, they would earn a daily stipend to cover basic travel and food costs and would learn a variety of skills. By developing a CV which included valuable work experience, their chances in the highly competitive job market would improve. In fact, many of our permanent facilitation staff have been drawn from this Volunteer Programme.
Uniquely, because of the nature of a science centre that offers many different experiences, volunteers learn a variety of skills. For example interacting with customers, time management, being presentable, that a general positive work ethic is empowering, facilitating hands-on science exhibits, assisting young learners and school groups, reception and information desk duties, skills needed to work in a Coffee Shop and as a cashier, up-skilling or learning new skills on various forms of technology e.g. in the auditorium, including having the opportunity to brush-up on computer skills as access to the internet and computers is freely available for volunteers etc.