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Employment and training

Developing volunteering opportunities with corporate partners

Two people sit facing each other on either side of a small table. The one closest to the camera reviews a CV on a tablet. Neither of their faces can be seen.

Incorporating a volunteering element into our partnerships work is something we strive for with our employability programmes. In this blog, Development Coordinator, Milly Harrison, looks at the impact this has for both participant and volunteer, and explores how we have adapted to provide remote opportunities over the last year.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a noticeable surge in the number of people donating their time to support their communities and peers through volunteering. Whether it’s doing shopping for a neighbour, offering career advice to someone in need or joining a local food bank, people have been there to meet the growing demand for support. In fact, according to research from Legal & General, one in five UK adults (19%) has volunteered their time for community activities since the start of lockdown on 23rd March 2020.

At Catch22, we prioritise volunteering as an integral part of our partnerships. We strongly believe that they add value to the programmes we deliver and provide further support to the people using our services. Over the last year we have redesigned our volunteering opportunities with this in mind, and switched to virtual so our offer could continue through the pandemic.

The core of our new volunteering offer has been designed around two key elements:

  1. We are led by the people we support. We match skills and career aspirations between our participants and the volunteers. This ensures there is good engagement and that both the participant and the volunteer are getting the most out of the interaction.
  2. We offer a selection of volunteering options. We understand that not everyone will have the same amount of time and availability to give, so we provide a range of opportunities which have varying levels of commitment so that more people are able to volunteer their time to good causes – whether they have 1 hour or 20 hours to spare.

We are led by the people we support:

On our Digital Edge employability programme, our team run ‘insight days’ where Microsoft employees volunteer to get involved in a day of project delivery. This includes offering advice and information on the world of work and digital career pathways, and delivering activities that support skills building. Attendees also have the opportunity to ask questions directly to apprentices and employees at Microsoft. These insight days have now become a central part of the programme (taking place virtually throughout lockdown), and continue to receive positive feedback from our participants:

 “The insight session was really inspiring and fascinating. It gave me confidence in getting into the kind of role I want, and hearing all the different perspectives was reassuring to me. I especially liked Selina’s presentation as it was the most relatable and provided me with a general idea of what I need to do to start my career.”

– Digital Edge participant

We contacted Selina to see if she could comment on her experience of volunteering with Catch22:

“This past November I was fortunate to have been asked to join Catch22’s Digital Edge Event organised by Microsoft’s Social Impact Tech Pathways team. This was a fantastic event aimed at inspiring 16-25 year olds into the tech industry, and specifically down the apprenticeship route.

“I was honoured to be the keynote speaker for the 16-25 age group, where I delved into life as an apprentice in the tech industry, my rocky route to get here, and some top learnings and advice that I’ve found to be important throughout my journey. Throughout my path until this point (and continuing!), I understand the struggles, fear and uncertainty around finding a career; I was so glad to be able to share some of my experiences so that they may benefit others following a similar path.

“It was truly inspiring to speak to a group of such passionate individuals who clearly have a fantastic journey ahead of them- I was equally impacted by them as they were by me! Thank you Catch22, the Microsoft Social Impact Tech Pathways team, and the wonderful individuals for a fantastic opportunity.”

– Selina Tishler, Business Program Manager in Worldwide Learning

We offer a selection of volunteering options:

The Barclays LifeSkills team at Catch22 have successfully introduced a number of different volunteering opportunities onto their programme, all of which have been able to continue virtually over the pandemic. This has meant valuable support has been able to continue at a time when it is needed most.

One way that volunteers at Barclays get involved is by offering CV Workshops. This provides participants with feedback and advice on their CV, which is sent anonymously to the volunteer. This feedback covers topics such as how to structure and present written content effectively. This has proven to be a great volunteering opportunity as it can all take place virtually and volunteers don’t have to commit to lots of hours each month; in the last six months we’ve had 35 volunteers take part in this scheme, showing the impact that providing a range of time commitments can have.

Over 50 Barclays volunteers also took part in hosting virtual online workshops with our LifeSkills participants. These workshops offered insight into three different topics: the world of work, money management and interview preparation. All three themes have shown to be really useful to our participants: the money management workshop is particularly important, at a time when work for lots of people we support can be unstable.

“We have found these additional opportunities for our participants to be hugely valuable. It’s giving them the chance to meet lots of different working professionals and learn about different career pathways. It’s bridging the gap for people who might not have pictured themselves in certain roles before.”

– Samantha McNeice, Operations Manager, Barclays LifeSkills