Student Volunteering: Better than Qualifications?

Posted on: 22 February 2016

Student Volunteering Week

Since we celebrated Student Volunteering Week in 2015, the value of participating in social action at university has gained significant attention. In the past year, major companies like Penguin Random House, EY and PwC have decided to stop considering A level and degree qualifications in their graduate recruitment processes. These high profile cases have highlighted what we in the youth social action sector have long known – that extracurricular activities like volunteering have a central role to play in equipping young people for life and work.

Social action adds value to the university experience, helping students to prepare for life beyond lectures. Volunteering allows students to develop skills, such as leadership and resilience, that are valuable for their professional and personal growth. A recent report by the Behavioural Insights Team and the Cabinet Office found “compelling and robust evidence that young people who take part in social action initiatives, such as volunteering, develop some of the most critical skills for employment and adulthood in the process”.

As well as these opportunities for self-development, Student Volunteering Week 2016 is showcasing how student social action helps to tackle key social issues, such as educational disadvantage and elderly isolation. According to research by Ipsos MORI for Step Up To Serve, 42% of 10-20 year olds took part in meaningful social action in 2015 and 70% of young people surveyed said they are likely to participate in social action in the future. With pressures on local services throughout the UK, volunteering has a role to play in bringing groups together to meet community need.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Student Volunteering Week, taking place from 22-28 February 2016. Organised by Student Hubs and the National Union of Students (NUS), SVW is bringing together students and staff from over 100 colleges and universities to celebrate not-for-profit work throughout the UK. SVW has grown from a small campaign to a truly national one, with more than 10,000 students expected to take part in over 500 events across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Sara Fernandez, our Executive Director, says: “At Student Hubs, we know that student social action has a double benefit on young people and the communities they work with. The skills and understanding that students develop as volunteers can help them hugely as they begin to make career decisions and enter their working lives. Taking part in social action means that students leave university more likely to become active citizens for life, whichever sector they choose to work in.”

Kate Van der Plank, Business Engagement Director for Step up to Serve, says: “Through social action, young people are developing precisely the kind of skills and attributes businesses are looking for, whilst making a positive impact in their communities. Like Step Up To Serve’s #iwill campaign, Student Volunteering Week is a fantastic celebration of this double impact that young people have across the UK. Step Up To Serve supports Student Volunteering Week and looks forward to seeing the impact of this year’s campaign.”

Representatives from the business sector agree. Ali Stripling, Global Volunteer and Engagement Manager for ARM, says: “Student Volunteering Week is great opportunity to celebrate the impact of thousands of student volunteers across the country and ARM is a proud supporter of the vision of Student Hubs and the NUS in making it happen. We have seen first-hand the power of volunteering to create local community impact and we encourage our people to offer their support. ARM has also provided funding and mentors to the Social Innovation Programme through Cambridge Hub, linking us with students who are striving to make the world a better place.”

Join us to celebrate SVW 2016. Get involved with activities near you, let us know what you’re up to using #SVW2016, and share your motivations for taking part in social action using #IVolunteerBecause.

Molly Whyte

Molly is currently the Communications Officer for Student Hubs and Student Volunteering Week. Alongside youth social action, she is interested in culture and social enterprise. Find her on Twitter: @molly_whyte.

Tags: Social Action, Social Impact Careers, Third Sector

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