SOEC volunteer program to be retooled

Volunteer program being looked at after complaints of experience no longer enjoyable

The South Okanagan Events Centre is bringing in a security firm while they retool their volunteer program.

International Crowd Management Security (ICM) out of Kelowna will be taking over security operations at the SOEC as of Dec. 12.

The 40 people who made up the combination of volunteers and paid part-time employees including ushers, customer service representatives and the security department for the SOEC were issued a letter from Spectra Venue Management, announcing the interim hiring of ICM.

“We have been made aware by a number of you that the event services and volunteer program has changed to a point where it is no longer enjoyable,” the letter states. It goes on to note that management at the SOEC takes responsibility for the situation.

Dean Clarke, SOEC general Manager, said ICM will be conducting security operations on an interim basis, and the volunteer program will return in the future.

“We’ve put our volunteers in very stressful situations. The last five years we’ve had some complaints from them that the program is not as enjoyable anymore. That they are doing less greetings and guest servicing and they are doing more security. So we felt that those people should actually be paid.”

Former volunteers have been encouraged to apply with ICM.

“(ICM) are just helping us until we re-launch again. So our intentions are to re-launch the volunteer program and make it more enjoyable for our volunteers.”

Over the past five years positions have become specialized and those are skills Clarke said should be paid for and removed from the volunteer program.

“We need to get back into an appropriate volunteer program that doesn’t put our volunteers in super stressful situations. When some of our guests are maybe enjoying the party too much,” Clarke said. “We’re looking out for our volunteers is what we’re doing. We don’t want them to feel like we’re using them.”

He said the community in Penticton is known for its large population of volunteers who are willing to help. However, issues with the program led to the decision to take a second look.

“The car has a flat tire. We have to stop the car, we have to take the tire off, we have to redo it,” Clarke said.

He noted there is no recourse with a volunteer if they don’t show up for a shift, something that can be a problem when Christmas obligations start taking more time.

“Sometimes we have 2,000 people in the building for a Vees game. Which is kind of the average now, 2,200, 2,300, and we’re four, five, six, seven volunteers short, and we just can’t do that anymore.”

Finding efficiencies in the 2016 budget will pay for the ICM services and Clarke said expenses will likely go up $400-$500 per Vees game.

“That doesn’t mean the net effect of each night isn’t profitable. The Vees are increasing their attendance, if not monthly, yearly.”

Moving forward there will be a combination of positions formally occupied by volunteers that will be absorbed by a security company, whether it’s ICM going forward or another company.

“It’s almost like an ambassadors. Penticton ambassadors, goodwill ambassadors. We’re looking for volunteers to make our event better, not necessarily the sheriffs or the police at the event.”

“We’re not dumping the volunteers. I communicated it with them directly. I handed them the letter, I told them it was interim, we took the blame for it,” Clarke said.