Let’s continue to champion student volunteering during tough economic times
I’m writing this blog with three hats on my head; one as vInspired Youth Advisory Board member, two as recent graduate who benefitted massively from my experiences of volunteering whilst a student (despite only starting in the last 6 months of my degree) and three as an employee of an organisation that was involved with Student Volunteering Week this year.
The benefits of students engaging with their local community can never be understated as it creates an awareness of life outside of the student’s own world. This creates empathy, greater understanding and in my opinion aids personal development in ways that theoretical class room based learning never can.
It’s through this that students of all ages learn real citizenship and life skills so often lacking from school curriculums, colleges and university life. Student volunteering is all about bringing together all parts of society to aid each other and this should never be forgotten.
The employability enhancement side of volunteering is something that will have been mentioned loads last week in trying to entice students into volunteering. The confidence levels and practical hands on work experience that student volunteering can give is invaluable. At a time when graduates are still being churned out at record levels during a period of high youth unemployment, students need more than just their hard earned and valued qualifications.
Student volunteering is also a quick and easy way to try out something new, meet new people and test out different career paths. It can fill a CV and covering letter with practical examples of student’s talents and capabilities.
However, having worked throughout Student Volunteering Week I still feel there is more that can be done. There are still too many students who have never thought of volunteering, who are unaware of its advantages and what it can provide.
But one of the dangers I feel student volunteering faces in the next few years and which I heard a lot of last week working in a non-Redbrick Students’ Union, is the socio economic challenges faced by many students due to the recession. Many hard-pressed students are only really after paid work rather than volunteering opportunities as they desperately need money to pay their way not just for them but their families too.
Or they are working so many hours already that they just have no time left to volunteer. It is here where there needs to be a big rethink both on how our economy works and how to better engage with non-traditional student types (mature, student parents etc.) in order to allow more students to be able to get involved in future Student Volunteering Weeks.
Lee Marsham is a member of the Youth Advisory Board at vInspired.