While VISTA service begins with VMO and OSOT, the training and professional development of VISTA members continues throughout their service term. These opportunities take many forms: formal and informal, group-based and individually-focused, face-to-face, virtual, as well as written.
Ongoing training should address the VISTA members’ needs in carrying out their VAD, take place early enough to make a difference during the service year, and address the VISTAs’ learning styles. Sponsors are responsible for ensuring VISTAs receive the training necessary to complete their assignments. Many VISTA members approach their year of service as a time for professional and personal growth and are interested in maximizing learning opportunities.
Opportunities through the Sponsor
VISTA members and sponsors are encouraged to pursue opportunities that align with the project’s needs and the VISTA’s professional development interests.
Each VISTA member’s OSOT should include conversations with the supervisor about training and professional development interests and priorities. The supervisor can provide key support for the ongoing training of VISTA members in a number of ways, including:
- Working with VISTAs to assess training needs and develop plans to meet them using individual development plans
- Recommending organizations that provide relevant courses and training, including professional associations and colleges
- Supporting participation in appropriate opportunities identified by VISTA members
- Securing funds from the sponsor’s training and travel budgets to support ongoing training;
- Advocating for reduced or waived training fees on the VISTA member’s behalf
- Identifying relevant professional coalitions, groups, and networks for potential membership
- Making connections to other professionals for networking, informational interviews, and mentoring
- Suggesting books and strong written sources related to the project’s focus or VISTA member interests
- Setting up opportunities for VISTAs to shadow the senior leaders with the sponsor or in the community
- Ensuring that VISTA members are included in trainings the sponsor provides for its staff;
- Coordinating events tailored to the needs of current VISTAs on the project
- Creating forums for VISTA members to share experiences and train each other on their projects
- Plugging VISTAs into national service networks that offer training open to members
- Connecting VISTA members to VISTA alums to learn about their areas of expertise
Opportunities through VISTA
VISTA provides a variety of opportunities for VISTAs throughout their service terms. The opportunities vary in intensity, ranging from short virtual sessions to multi-day in-person events. Many of these items, and more, are available via the VISTA Campus.
VISTA In-Service Training (IST)
In-Service Training (IST) is a multi-day, in-person training offering sessions on a range of topics relevant for VISTA members across projects and locations. IST is designed for VISTA members in their first few months of service who have a clear understanding of their VISTA assignment and have identified areas for their own professional development.
IST provides VISTA members with concrete information on topics relevant and important to their service, further building the capacity of VISTAs to effectively execute their VADs and successfully complete their service terms. IST addresses common training needs among VISTA members, provides an environment for VISTA members to discuss their projects, and ask questions in person. IST also offers a forum for VISTA members to connect with their peers. The CNCS State Office can provide current information on IST opportunities for VISTAs.
VISTA Online Courses
VISTA offers online courses designed for VISTAs in service. VISTA members can gain access to academic credit recommendations by successfully completing the “Volunteer Mobilization” course or the “Resource Development: Fundraising and Grant Writing” course. VISTA also offers a course entitled “Poverty in Your Community” and one called “Community Engagement”. In these courses, VISTAs complete weekly readings and practical assignments that will inform the work they do and can be applied at the site. VISTA members have a chance to connect with other VISTAs in the course and a facilitator who can help answer questions, give feedback, and offer help. For more information, see the VISTA Campus.
Webinars are offered each month on a variety of topics, and are also recorded and made available on-demand. Topics include volunteer engagement, resource development, outreach and communications, poverty, and tools for VISTA service. Webinars are also available on VISTA benefits, serving effectively, and life after VISTA. For more information, see the VISTA Campus.