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Student social action contributes the value of £175 million

Friday 27-02-2015 - 10:35

We've enjoyed had another amazing Student Volunteering Week. The fixture, now in its incredible 14th year, is part of a national campaign aiming to raise awareness of the value of student volunteering.



This is a guest blog by Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive, Step Up To Serve and one of the judges for the Students Volunteer of the Year Award 2015.

Enabling students to make a significant positive impact through social action, such as volunteering or campaigning, whilst at university or college, is something of which we, at Step Up To Serve, are hugely supportive.

I was thrilled this year to take part in the difficult task of judging the Student Volunteer of the Year for this week’s awards. The winner Conor McGlacken was announced at the launch event on Monday night.

Conor is the president of Engineers Without Borders, at Bristol Students’ Union and is a student Trustee of EWB-UK. Engineers Without Borders is an international charity who aim to work towards a world where everyone has access to the technology they need for a life free from poverty.

Conor started the EWB Outreach program where school children are taught about international development and engineering. Last year alone the project was delivered with over 300 school children.

I say that the judging was difficult because there were so many great candidates to choose from and during my time so far at Step Up To Serve, the charity behind the #iwill campaign, I’ve heard many more incredible stories from inspirational people up and down the country taking part in social action. Stories and projects that help us demonstrate that encouraging all young people to take part in more meaningful social action is of vital importance not just for the young people themselves, but also the communities in which they serve.

By taking part in social action, young people are able to strengthen their communities as well as develop their character and skills. This is the double benefit of youth social action.

Whilst judging the Student Volunteer of the Year awards recently, I got talking to Raechel Mattey. NUS is also one of Step Up To Serve's partner organisations, and has made three pledges towards the #iwill campaign:

  • To work with Student Hubs to deliver Student Volunteering Week 2015
  • To work with the Association of Colleges to research volunteering in Further Education and Sixth Forms
  • To work with Universities UK to research barriers to student opportunities.

Raechel and I talked about the ways in which students can become an integral part of their communities. Despite their transitional nature, students have many skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to offer to causes.

In fact the impact that students make through taking part in social action, such as volunteering, and campaigning, whilst at university, contributes the value of £175 million to the UK economy. Not only this, but over 60  of students* say the fact that they develop key skills is an important factor in their decision to volunteer as it is hugely beneficial for their future, whether students are preparing for careers in the third, public or private sector.

We want every young person to have the chance to participate fully and create a habit for life. Higher and further education institutions are leading the way in this, as we can see from the results of a recent survey by the Association of Colleges (AoC) and NUS* backed up by our Ipsos MORI research** last year which is fantastic to see.

To build on these findings, and with it being Student Volunteering Week, we would love to see a movement of students’ unions coming together to pledge their support for the #iwill campaign encouraging further participation in meaningful social action. We want to see more students’ unions pledging to share their success stories, such as those which came to light through the Student Volunteer of the Year awards.

We also would love to see students’ unions taking steps to encourage their older students to volunteer to facilitate social action projects for a greater number of younger participants; this will lead to embedding social action earlier in the journey of younger people, creating habits for life.

So congratulations for winning Student Volunteer of the Year, Conor, for your work with Engineers Without Borders. Very well deserved in a sector that we’ve seen contains many incredible candidates. Be justly proud of your achievement, and go and shout it from the rooftops!

To the rest of you: #iwill support more young people to take part in social action by 2020. Will you?

 


www.iwill.org.uk

The #iwill campaign, was set up in 2013 by the three major party leaders and HRH the Prince of Wales. It’s a UK-wide campaign aiming to make involvement in social action (e.g. fundraising, volunteering and campaigning) a normal part of life for 10-20 year-olds by the year 2020.

The recent survey conducted by AoC and NUS can be found here.

** The #iwill campaign conducted the first of its annual research projects last November, to measure the level of participation in social action across the UK. Results and a summary infographic can be downloaded from here: https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/publications/1711/Youth-social-action-in-the-UK.aspx

Student Volunteering Week is delivered in partnership with Student Hubs and sponsored by Barclays

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