Why (online) volunteering is here to stay

Volunteering has seen a boom during the pandemic, more than 10 million people volunteered in their community during the coronavirus crisis[1]. This ranged from the army of NHS volunteers to people informally supporting their neighbours.

As well as the volunteers in our foodbanks and hospitals, at Street League we had our own army of online volunteers who offer skills-based support. Each volunteering session offers young people 1-2-1 support, helping them to develop their CVs or practice their interview technique.

Online was never going to be a replacement for in person volunteering and experience, but we were quick to make sure we made the move so young people didn’t miss out. Moving our volunteering opportunities online helped us reach more young people from a wider geographical area, as well as making it easier for our volunteers who find it hard to get away from their desks. We were quick to adapt, holding our first online volunteering session in March 2020.

Eva from Paysafe took part in a mock interview workshop in July 2020 with participants from Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, she said: “It was an eye opening and very gratifying experience, it felt amazing to be able to help young people even in such a small way. It proved challenging for me too, it's not very easy to interview people who are not completely ready to be interviewed.”

It was an eye opening and very gratifying experience, it felt amazing to be able to help young people even in such a small way.

Eva

Volunteer, Paysafe

Eva is among more than 200 volunteers each year who support our participants, giving them the chance to practice their interview technique and help them to improve their CVs.

Volunteering session with Quilter Cheviot plc

Image: Volunteering session with Quilter plc

It might be surprising to hear, but many of the young people we work with have never heard of a CV before coming to us, let alone thought about writing one. This makes the achievement of completing one even more significant. For Ismaeel, a participant from Birmingham, when asked what he’s most proud of since joining the programme, with a wry smile, he answered: “probably my CV — I’ve just finished it a minute ago.”

Ismaeel, Birmingham participant holding a football

Image: Ismaeel, participant from Birmingham

Jack from Quilter plc took part in a CV workshop session in April 2020 with participants from Birmingham, he said “Joe and Anna are a credit to Street League and from this I have gained a glimpse into the brilliant work the organisation carries out.” Jack said his highlight was “being given the opportunity to help young people develop their CVs and hopefully putting them in a stronger position to secure interviews and employment.”

The age-old problem of how to get experience when you don’t have experience is common with many of the young people we work with. In the last year, 955 young people said lack of experience was their biggest barrier to finding employment (49%)[2].

Not having experience makes the world of work largely unknown for many of our participants. 249 of our participants in the last year came from workless backgrounds, this means that there isn’t experience at home either. Speaking to people with work experience helps to remove the fear of work, making it more familiar and less daunting. The workshops also help young people to build confidence and feel prepared.

Image: Adam, participant from Birmingham

This was the case for Adam from Birmingham who had never had an interview before doing a mock interview with volunteers from wealth management company, Quilter plc. Like many young people we work with he didn’t think he’d be able to. 

Thanks to support from volunteers like Eva and Jack, he was proved wrong: “The first one I was very nervous, but by the second one, after I had a feel for it, the conversation was flowing way better — I had a smile on my face and was enjoying it.”

The first one I was very nervous, but by the second one, after I had a feel for it, the conversation was flowing way better — I had a smile on my face and was enjoying it.

Adam

Participant, Birmingham

It’s also a rewarding experience for volunteers. Olivia from Mercedes-Benz volunteered in February 2021 at a mock interview workshop with participants from Sheffield, she said: “The interviews themselves were extremely enjoyable. Getting to meet the young people was great and the sessions felt really rewarding.” It was the second time Olivia had volunteered, coming back after doing a mock interview session with Leeds participants before Christmas.

Taking into account the successful feedback from both volunteers and participants and our ability to reach more young people from a wider range of areas, we will continue online volunteering. It won’t be the end of in person sessions but the beginning of a hybrid approach, doing both online and in person volunteering sessions with our partners and their employees.

Going online made it easier for people to volunteer and helped us reach even more young people. Remote volunteering hadn’t been a consideration before the pandemic, but now it’s here to stay.

If you’re interested in supporting Street League as a partner, please get in touch with Georgia Dessain

georgia.dessain@streetleague.co.uk  

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/may/26/uk-volunteering-coronavirus-crisis-community-lockdown

[2] Statistics are from 28/05/20-27/05/21, 1912 young people started a programme with us during this period. 

 

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