People Management: Learn how to work in charities - free

The NCVO is now offering its careers course online and gratis, reports Indira Das-Gupta.

Umbrella group the NCVO is looking for people to take part in a free online course that aims to inform and guide those contemplating a career in the voluntary sector.

The course, starting at the end of April, is part of a pilot project run by Working For A Charity, part of the NCVO Workforce Development team.

It is being conducted online through WebCT Vista, the virtual learning environment at Roehampton University.

It is the second unit in the pilot series and covers marketing, communications and campaigning. NCVO hopes the course will be officially up and running next year.

NCVO already runs face-to-face courses, but the new course has been devised for people who can't get to London or have other commitments. The foundation course currently costs £795, but it's hoped the online version, which will be accredited by Roehampton University, will cost no more than half that. Bursaries will be available to graduates and those on low incomes.

The foundation course takes place three times a year, with about 25 people taking part each time.

Elaine Smethurst, manager of Working For A Charity, says: "The idea is to give people who are interested in moving into the sector the additional tools they need to find a job. We help them understand the language that is used and the cultural differences.

"We get people coming on the course who say they keep applying but never get interviews, or that they have had interviews but never get the job.

The course is designed to give them that extra edge."

The foundation course consists of seven days of training and a 20-day placement at a charity. NCVO is looking for more charities to take on trainees.

The Treloar Trust, which provides education and training to young disabled people, does not regret taking on a trainee. Hilary Hares, director of fundraising, says: "One was so successful that he got a full-time post with us. He beat off strong competition because of the knowledge he had acquired of our work, and has become a productive and popular team member."

The online course, aimed at those with less time, will not include a placement. Working For A Charity estimates it will take four to six months - 60 hours at the rate of two or three hours a week. Smethurst says: "That's the minimum, but we normally find people really get into it and end up doing a lot more."

Group work will form part of the online course, with a set number of participants communicating with each other though closed chat rooms.

Hares adds: "Having worked in both the corporate and voluntary sectors myself, I know just how challenging making the transition can be. These courses demystify the process."

Charities or individuals that are interested in the course should contact

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