Whilst at university it will be said to you many times that you should find voluntary work to gain some work experience. When this was first said to me I didn’t quite understand the importance; I had previous jobs so why should I work for free when I already have this on my CV? However it wasn’t until I actually volunteered that I realized how important it really was!
What is a Volunteer?
A volunteer is described as someone who gives their time to partake in an activity that is unpaid. This help could be for a none-profit organisation or an individual. This activity will be to benefit an organisation or individual (Volunteer Centre, 2018).
During the time volunteering a person does not have the same rights as an employee and will not be asked to sign a contract of employment. However, a volunteer agreement can be given. This will explain the training that will be given, any expenses that will be covered (normally the cost of transportation) and any health and safety issues that may occur during the time volunteering (GOV, 2018).
Rights of a Volunteer
All organisations must have a health and safety legislation, which is a legal requirement by the government. Due to this legislation a volunteer must receive the same amount of commitment to their health and safety as a paid employee (Durham, 2018). A volunteer is not covered by any anti-discrimination laws, however holds the same rights as a paid employee when it comes to data protection. All organisations should have insurance that covers the volunteer (Stockton Volunteers, 2018).
My first lot of work experience was done at Prison Me No Way, a non-profit organisation that I have address in previous blog posts. Whilst working with them I gained skills, received experience and it made me realize what I actually wanted to do in life. Before going to them I was set on working within the prisons as a behavior analysis; however it wasn’t until I actually spent a day in a prison that I realized I just wasn’t cut out for it! Throughout my time with them I did a lot of work with young people in schools. This was when my passion started. After university I now want to work with disadvantaged youths who are in the Criminal Justice System, either from their own accord or due to family members. It was during my voluntary work that I realized this and I would not have had a clue if I hadn’t had that experience.
Not only did this give me experience, I also gained skills that will be useful in my career; many skills learned whilst volunteering can be transferred into a workplace (Community Southwark, 2018). Before this work I had never spoken in front of a group of teenagers; I have had my fair share of public speaking however there is a completely different atmosphere within a group of school children who don’t necessarily want to be there. You have to keep them engaged, and also keep it informative on a level that they can understand. This was something that I did find hard as I had very low confidence however this changed the more I did it. I now feel confident enough to speak in front of most people!
This work experience also looks great on your CV! I started with such a bad attitude towards voluntary work but in the end I am so glad I did it! Not only do I have work experience in an area that is relevant to the area in which I would like to work in, (I’m pretty sure 9 months working at Cooplands when I was 15 would not have gotten me a job in a school!). Voluntary work really does look great on your CV because it can show employers that you have taken your own time out to learn new skills and to gain experience!
Ensure that you are getting experience in an area that you want to work in! Because although it can look good, you need to make sure you have the right skills and the right experience needed! As I am doing a course in criminology, my work experience is more desired to be working within the criminal justice system or an area like that; however I believe that if people work with youths before they become criminals then there will be no need to for them to progress into higher levels of the criminal justice system.
Going forward I am currently looking for work experience working within a school. I have found this quite hard as I need to ensure I can get to the school for the time needed (which is hard when your reliant on buses!) and I also need to ensure that I’m not at a school that is too close to where I live (with the children I want to work with, I would not feel comfortable with them living near my house and in knowing where I live). I am currently in contact with a school who are trying to find me a placement within the student support team so I am hopeful of this!
From first writing this post, I have now completed my work placement at Winifred Holtby Academy. I did 30 hours over a period of 5 weeks at the school and worked in many different areas; such as learning support, isolation and exclusion unit and the house offices. Whilst there I got an understanding of the different areas involved in helping students with issues. This also gave me an insight into the different areas and what they focus on.
Community Southwark (2018) The importance of volunteering for young people [Online] Available at https://communitysouthwark.org/get-involved/want-volunteer/volunteering-opportunities/importance-volunteering-young-people (Accessed:13/05/2018).
Volunteer Centre (2018) What is Volunteering? [Online] Available at https://www.varotherham.org.uk/what-is-volunteering/ (Accessed:13/05/2018).
GOV (2018) Volunteer placements, rights and expenses [Online] Available at https://www.gov.uk/volunteering/volunteers-rights (Accessed:13/05/2018).
Durham, J (2018) Your Employment Rights as a Volunteer [Online] Available at http://www.voluntaryworker.co.uk/youremploymentrightsasavolunteer.html (Accessed:13/05/2018).
Stockton Volunteers (2018) Rights and Responsibilities of a Volunteer [Online] Available at http://www.stocktonvolunteers.co.uk/information-and-advice/information-and-advice-on-volunteering/rights-and-responsibilities-of-a-volunteer/ (Accessed:13/05/2018).