Anyone who’s read my blog or looked at my Facebook page will know that I’m a huge advocate of volunteering and recommend it to everyone looking to gain experience and new skills (particularly those at the start of their careers).
And, in the true spirit of ‘don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t actually do yourself’, I’m an active volunteer myself.
I first dabbled at school as part of the sixth form Community Studies programme and later spent 15 years volunteering as an adult literacy and numeracy tutor.
For the past few years, however, I’ve been a Junior Achievement volunteer. I feel very strongly about giving people (young and old) opportunities to develop and this is where Junior Achievement is brilliant. Their aim is to empower young people and help them to develop skills that they can use to get a job or start their own business, which they do through education programmes based around financial literacy, employability and entrepreneurship.
I started as a classroom volunteer working on the ‘It’s All About Money’ programme teaching financial literacy skills to year 10 students and the ‘Get a Job’ programme showing year 12 students how to write CVs, apply for jobs and handle interview situations. Last year, however, I branched out and became a business mentor as part of the charity’s company programme.
I’d actually participated myself as a teenager (when it was known as Young Enterprise) so knew what to expect – or so I thought. In reality, it was as much a learning curve for me as it was for the team of students I mentored.
Placed at University College Isle of Man I worked with a team of five young people who called themselves Integrity + and came up with the idea of a business called Storage Plan which was a home de-cluttering service.
Along with a fellow mentor I had weekly meetings with the team to check on their progress and offer any advice and guidance that they needed
In January the Dragon’s Den presentations took place – the team prepared a presentation which they delivered to a panel of ‘dragons’ (aka local business people) and were quizzed on the workings of their business idea. Winning this part of the competition was a huge boost to their confidence and, from the dragons’ feedback, also gave them new ideas that they could use in their business.
In March, the hard work of the previous six months came together on Finals Day when all 29 local teams submitted reports, gave presentations, attended panel interviews and manned their own trade stands.
The culmination of the programme was an awards dinner at the beautiful Villa Marina and, although Integrity+ didn’t come away with any trophies, I would imagine they’ve gained a great insight into the world of business and picked up some new skills that will benefit them well into the future.
If you would like more information on volunteering with Junior Achievement you can contact them here.