by Wilfrid J. Wilkinson, Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair

In 2013, all districts will have the opportunity to support Vocational Training Teams (VTTs) with Rotary Foundation grants. These teams of Rotarian and non-Rotarian professionals will travel abroad to meet a humanitarian need, either by teaching local professionals about a particular field or learning more themselves.

VTTs, like Group Study Exchanges (GSEs), can be sponsored by district grants, which have no area of focus requirements. Districts 6200 and 9600 used district grants to organize a Vocational Training Team (VTT) exchange dealing with the environmental impact of oil spills. VTTs can also be sponsored by global grants.

Some districts have expressed disappointment that the Foundation will no longer support the Group Study Exchange (GSE) program. However, many districts have had difficulty finding professionals who meet the program requirements, forcing the Foundation to grant dozens of exceptions to the GSE guidelines every year. Under Future Vision, districts can still sponsor such activities through district grants and search for partners on the District Grant VTT Partner Forum on LinkedIn.

Unlike GSEs, VTTs have no restrictions on participant age or length of training. They also offer an opportunity for the hands-on activity with lasting impact that many GSE participants have requested. The GSE program established the Foundation’s commitment to vocational training; VTTs are taking that commitment to a new, more dynamic level.

I encourage every district to take advantage of the humanitarian service that can be generated by a Vocational Training Team, once Future Vision is fully introduced on 1 July. This doesn’t mean that your Foundation won’t allow GSE teams. They will still be funded, but with the money allocated to the district, and only when the district committee feels that it will be a meaningful exchange.