As well as trying out different careers, volunteering allows students to collect essential skills for the workplace. Such skills can make a real difference when trying to secure a job, especially during a downturn.
“At Volunteering England we recognise the importance of student volunteering and we are lobbying the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for student volunteering programmes to receive sustainable funding beyond July 2009 to ensure the infrastructure and expertise developed since 2002 is not damaged or lost,” says Mike Locke, Director of Public Affairs at Volunteering England.
“Higher and Further Education Institutions have a responsibility to provide and facilitate opportunities for students to gain career-specific and softer skills through volunteering that enhances job prospects and provides a better understanding of the world of work.”
Beth, 21, is in her third year of Sociology and Criminology BSc at Portsmouth University. She tells us a little more about her experience as a volunteer and how it is shaping her career.
Currently, I’m President of Volunteering in Portsmouth (ViP). I was also involved in Orange RockCorps 2008 and I’ll be a member of the Conference Team for the National Student Volunteering Conference 2009.
I always wanted to get involved with volunteering as I have always liked helping people. I thought it would be the perfect time to get involved when I went to university. When I found out I could also start up my own projects through Volunteering in Portsmouth (ViP) I couldn’t wait to get the ball rolling and signed up as soon as I could.
Through this role and from completing an internship with the Student Volunteering team at Volunteering England I found out about the opportunity to be part of the conference team for the National Student Volunteering Conference. I applied for this and I am on the conference team this year, which means I am helping to organise and run parts of the conference. I am also running a training session at conference with the Volunteering Manager at University College London (UCL) on how to run successful student led projects.
I have improved the structure of ViP so that it is more effective at being student-led and now has the ability to take on more new and exciting projects and I have increased the number of student volunteers. We now have a successful committee with many projects on the go and new opportunities always being discussed and planned.
Last year, ViP won HEFCE’s Volunteering Team of The Year Award which was a great achievement for the committee and ViP. I was also awarded a gold award by my Union last year for my work with ViP which I was especially proud of and consider to be one of my best achievements.
Skills for life
On a personal note, I have achieved my goal of helping people in my community, with this I have learnt new skills and achieved more than I ever thought possible at my time at university. Volunteering has helped me to enjoy, appreciate and to aspire to make the most of each opportunity I am given.
One challenge I have faced is balancing volunteering work with my university work, especially as I’m now in my last year of university. I have overcome this by making sure I allocate myself time to do each of these effectively, sometimes this means working till the early hours of the morning but I do it as I enjoy my volunteering but I have to make sure that I get a degree too.
I’ve learnt many skills from volunteering and I believe that volunteering can help to improve anyone’s employability as it helps people to gain skills that they may not achieve through education alone.
The skills that I have gained over the past two and a half years will help towards my career. As my first volunteering experience, jumping in the deep end to be part of organising student-led projects was a great experience for me: it meant that I gained useful skills early on, some were specific to what I do, such as how to complete a risk assessment or how to organise events from beginning to end and how to recruit and retain volunteers; some were more general such as improving my communication, networking and organisational skills I also had the chance to create and manage my own projects, which will prove invaluable later on.
Volunteering England's student volunteering work