This February, Student Volunteering Week will see thousands of students make time alongside their studies to contribute to their local community. An estimated 40 per cent of students in the UK currently take part in volunteering work while at university, with up to 15 per cent of all students doing so on a regular basis.
As well as allowing you to contribute to a good cause, volunteering work also boosts your employability. Volunteering opportunities might not seem closely related to the career path you wish to follow, but there are new skills to be learnt from these experiences that can be transferred to the workplace.
It's therefore not surprising that employers are frequently impressed by applicants with some form of volunteering experience. Through their relationship with Student Hubs, Barclays has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to helping students get exposure to volunteering opportunities, and for the second year running the bank is sponsoring Student Volunteering Week.
"Sponsoring the week gives us a chance to really connect with students," Kathleen Britain, UK Head of Community Investment, tells us. "Encouraging individuals to get involved in volunteering before they come to Barclays is a crucial part of developing the next generation of talent and allows us to highlight the importance Barclays puts on giving back to the communities in which we operate."
Community investment has long been an important part of Barclays' framework, with 68,000 employees around the world - almost half of its total workforce - participating in community investment programmes in 2012.
"At Barclays, we enable colleagues to get involved in their local communities and give them the resources and time they need to do so," says Kathleen. "Employees can spend two days per year out of the office, working on community projects should they choose to, and the vast majority of our colleagues are incredibly passionate about helping their local communities."
In addition to dedicating time and resources towards community investment, Barclays also has a matched fundraising programme, where money raised by employees for charity is matched up to a certain amount per year. Barclays also supports a payroll giving scheme that enables employees to contribute a proportion of their salary to charity each month.
"We recognise that as a bank we play a broad role in the communities in which we live and work," says Kathleen. "This role goes beyond our core banking activities. As a global business, we have the ability and the capacity to help people in a wide range of ways, and it's a privilege for us to be able to use our skills and expertise in the local community."
Student Volunteering Week
24 February - 2 March
Student Volunteering Week is a Student Hubs initiative sponsored by Barclays aimed at getting students around the country involved in community projects. We spoke to Adam O'Boyle, Executive Director at Student Hubs, about why students should get involved.
Students have the potential to shape a better world.
"We want to support and inspire students to make a difference in their local, national, and international communities while they're at university. Young people have to deal with a lot of negative stereotypes about them, but we passionately believe that students will get involved in community work if you give them the opportunity."
Volunteering can train you in various skills.
"Whether it's soft skills such as team work and self-confidence, or hard skills like financing and marketing, volunteering offers you an opportunity to learn and develop. The more you get involved, the more you learn, and these skills are a huge bonus when applying for jobs. Employers like to recruit people who have experience of volunteering and getting involved in their community."
Go to studentvolunteeringweek.org.uk to get involved.
"You may also want to go along to your local students' union or careers service and find out a bit more that way. We have student hubs at nine universities across the country and our teams will be happy to give you more information about the various different opportunities available."
Five reasons to volunteer
Jane Clark, Head of Corporate and Investment Banking Campus Recruitment at Barclays, gives us five reasons why students should consider volunteering.
- You'll develop new skills
Even if the volunteering doesn't directly relate to your planned future career, you'll gain valuable, relevant skills that can be transferred to the workplace.
- You'll have the chance to work somewhere new
Volunteering opens you up to new environments, potentially even another country or culture.
- It will boost your CV
Involvement in volunteering is a great way to make your application stand out, particularly as lots of candidates achieve similar high grades.
- It will demonstrate energy
Volunteering shows employers you're a proactive person who enjoys getting things done.
- You'll feel better for doing it
Nothing beats the positive feeling that comes from helping another person. Volunteering lets you really make a difference in someone else's life.