The importance of volunteering.

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Volunteering is defined as “Freely offering to do a task“. Naturally as humans we are inclined to help people, however many are put off when it comes to the word - volunteering. But why is this? 

When asking students here at BCU they said they’d rather not volunteer for two main reasons- they don’t like the idea of doing the same amount of work as those getting paid... without getting paid as well as believing that they would not gain valuable skills from the volunteering experience as they would if it was a paid opportunity.

What many students fail to realise is that the main benefit of volunteering is that it offers the opportunity to gain the same skills as those getting paid as well as being able to move freely between each volunteering opportunity as they are not tied down by contracts and leaving notices and you will still get the same amount of recognition by employers!

Other benefits include

The chance to make new friends- As with all experiences in life you will come across a variety of people when working as a volunteer.

Ability to make connections on LinkedIn- Once you work up the courage to start talking to people in the higher places (managers and team leaders) you will begin to have discussions about your goals and future aspirations and depending on who you come across they may offer to connect with you on LinkedIn opening up your network to a range of professionals who may or may not be in your desired career field.

Improves sense of purpose

 As you get older, you may begin to feel ‘lost’ and without a purpose in life.. So by accepting a volunteering opportunity you may begin to reconnect with your purpose or at least find yourself on a straighter path to your goals.

Helps the community

 No matter the opportunity, just by volunteering you will be taking some strain off of the community. For example, if you choose to volunteer at a care home (for the young, old or less able) people connected to those in the care home will have a little bit more time to themselves, whether that be to work or have a well deserved break, even if it is just for a few hours of the day.

Career experience- As previously mentioned, you are able to try out a new career without the long term commitment to the company/organisation. Dependant of the opportunity, your volunteering experience can expose you to professional organisations that could benefit your career in future years.

Boosts CV- Volunteering will help you fill out your CV, this will help you to reach and ace the interview process. This often impresses the employer with your passion for improvement and new skills.

Valuable skills and experience - Voluntary organisations are well aware that many people volunteer to gain experience, and as long as you can show your commitment and dedication to the cause from the outset, don’t be afraid to be honest about your motives and use volunteering as a stepping stone to further your career.

How will volunteering help the community and why is this so important?

Community can be defined as a group of individuals living within an area sharing common interests and attitudes. Giving up your personal time to pour back into the community has positive impacts despite the class or wealth of the majority in that community.

A study was conducted where 101 district authorities were randomly selected. They found that areas with higher levels of voluntary activity had a strong positive correlation with quality of life. Generally these areas experienced less crime, better health and higher GCSE attainment, in all being very satisfied with their lives.

The value of volunteering to students.

A large majority of students who volunteer (95%) are motivated by a desire to improve things or help people.

Volunteering provides a unique opportunity for students during their time at university to make a difference to their local community, as well as developing their skills.

For some, volunteering during university can be a route to employment, or a chance to try something new and develop skills. Volunteering can help students decipher which careers they are more or less well suited to due to the huge variety of volunteering opportunities now available in a range of different settings.

IVR research showed that developing skills (88%) and gaining work experience (83%) are important motivating factors for students engaging in volunteering. 51% of recent graduates under 30 who are in paid work stated that volunteering helped them to secure employment.

Student volunteers make a significant contribution to organisations and the wider community, especially through the skills and enthusiasm that they bring and the hours that they volunteer with groups and organisations. Over half of students volunteering do so both during term time and vacations and a third volunteer at least once a week.

IVR research showed that student volunteering can develop students’ community awareness and help them integrate into the local communities outside of university, breaking out of what they called the â€˜student bubble’. 77% of student volunteers indicate that their understanding of other people had increased as a result of volunteering. In addition this will make them feel more integrated as a member of the society.

As a student here at Birmingham City University, you are able to complete the graduate+ award for FREE! The award is highly valued in the eyes of employers. Volunteering is a major component that you can use to complete this award- just 50 hours of volunteering contributes to your silver award and 100 hours for volunteering can link to the completion of your gold award.

How to get involved!

In the UK there are plenty of voluntary opportunities for people from all walks of life. You can choose from more generic opportunities in sectors such as retail and health or you can look into more specific opportunities for the career path you wish to enter.

Common examples include:

Charity shop sales assistant

Warehouse Picker & Packer

Allotments gardner

Community event kitchen staff

Care home assistants

You can also opt to volunteer abroad if you have the financial stability to do so.

More recently, Birmingham have been chosen to host the Commonwealth Games and so they are in an active search for willing volunteers to join their team and make the event run as smoothly as possible. - Be apart of history!

To find out more about the volunteering opportunities here in Birmingham: 

Quote of the week -
“Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or stay afraid of taking them” ~ Jim Carey.