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Gaining experience & life skills through volunteering whilst at University and how this improves employability

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Logo: Edge Hill University

By Lynn Anderton, Volunteering Adviser

Working as a Volunteering Adviser at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, it is fair to say that I am very passionate about encouraging students to volunteer. Volunteering can not only provide students with new skills and experience, but it can increase their employability in many ways.

There are different aspects to my role, but I try to introduce as many students as possible to the idea of volunteering to increase and enhance their skills and experience and help them to increase their employability once they have finished studying.

Students talking to a staff member at a volunteering fair
Students talking to a staff member from a voluntary organisation (Edge Hill University)

There are so many other benefits of volunteering including helping students gain access to accredited training that may be offered to them as volunteers, as well as helping them build their confidence in the knowledge they are gaining from their studies. Students can sometimes get paid work in the organisation they are volunteering for, and not only are they building up their network of contacts for their working life, but having a professional reference helps students get the edge over other candidates applying for the same job as them.

As Student Volunteering Week approaches, 13-19th February 2023, I will be arranging different organisations to come in and talk to the students about what is involved in volunteering and what kind of skills and knowledge they will develop. We will have a Volunteering Fair, inviting in as many different organisations as possible to show students the vast range of volunteering opportunities that are available to them.

One of our volunteering success stories, Arran Heap, was first introduced to the idea of volunteering at one of these fairs.

The first step in his volunteering journey came after meeting Gorse Hill’s reserve manager at an Edge Hill Volunteers Fair while studying for his BSc (Hons) Ecology and Conservation degree.

“Arran said: “I always had an interest in getting as much work experience as possible because I knew from the start that I would need real world experience for my career. Gorse Hill is really close to campus so it was absolutely perfect for me.”

“Having experience is essential for anyone wanting to work in conservation and volunteering has given me so much.

“I genuinely loved my time at Gorse Hill and I still go back when I can because I have made friends for life.

“Now I’m giving back to my home town by running Blackpool’s first community-led tree planting programme. In the last year we have planted 10,000 trees in Blackpool and the foundation of my skills were developed at Gorse Hill.”

Students during volunteer day doing landscaping work
Careers Team volunteer day at Martin Mere in Burscough (Edge Hill University)

Edge Hill’s award-winning careers team recently got their hands dirty as part of a staff volunteering day at Martin Mere Wetland Centre in nearby Burscough.

Several members of the team rolled up their sleeves and spent the day helping the nature reserve’s grounds team to landscape the oriental area by removing weeds and laying and levelling pebbles around the edges of the pathway and ponds.

The team regularly extols the benefits of volunteering when assisting students with its range of careers support and guidance, and decided it was time to get involved themselves and offer their support to the local nature reserve.

Through Edge Hill’s extensive third sector network, more than 200 organisations have benefitted from students interested in volunteering. Our Careers Vacancy Portal lists dozens of volunteering opportunities and the Extra Edge employability programme rewards students for engagement in voluntary or part-time work.

Additionally, the Student Opportunity Fund, operated by the University, can even help students with costs for some volunteering activities. Volunteers’ Week takes place 1-7 June every year and it’s a chance to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities and to say thank you.

To discover more about courses at Edge Hill, please visit ehu.ac.uk/study.  

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in association with The Conservation Volunteers on 6 February 2023. Read the full issue here

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Posted On: 17/01/2023

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