Knowledge and skills are just as valuable as digging and decorating

Painting, decorating, gardening – or coding? Communities can benefit from all kinds of skills that volunteers have to offer.

Whilst volunteering is traditionally associated with employers helping with hard manual graft – building walls, planting pots and painting pavilions – communities can benefit from less heavyweight help, too.

The opportunities for volunteers are far wider than employers might imagine, with community groups increasingly reaping the benefits of more cerebral contributions. Employers’ skills are as varied as the workforce itself and it makes good sense to exploit the variety of the talent pool on offer. Volunteers can help others through sharing their knowledge and skills as well as their muscle power.

Recent projects in which Business in the Community (BITC) Cymru has been involved include:

  • Reading Partners – providing one-to-one reading support to primary pupils
  • Healthy eating sessions - sharing hints and tips for a healthy diet with young people
  • Employability sessions – helping students improve their interview skills or write a sparkling CV

A contemporary project took place at Cardiff’s Baden Powell Primary School as part of Give & Gain Day 2017. Pupils enjoyed sessions on coding and other IT skills required to help them live in an increasingly online and digital world. A knowledge of coding is particularly valuable to pupils in Wales as coding is included in the new Welsh Curriculum.

The school worked in tandem with a group of volunteers from Welsh Government which was led by Adam Williams of Code Club UK. It was a fun, hands-on session which not only improved pupils’ coding skills but also helped develop their creativity. Volunteers had to be computer-literate but didn’t need to be coding experts: experimenting and actually learning with the children how to create spinning space monkeys and flashing spaceships was all part of the experience.   

Rachel Letman from Baden Powell Primary said:

"The coding collaboration was a great success. The children were totally absorbed in the activities set by the volunteers and the whole process has inspired them to create their own coding projects".

Code Club leader Adam Williams agreed that the project had been very rewarding - and added that the future success of such projects depends on more volunteers coming forward:

"We are always seeking to increase the number of volunteers we have so that we can create more opportunities for children to learn the skills they need for the future".

Jill Salter, who leads on Business in the Community Cymru’s employee volunteering work, added:

"This project is a great example of volunteers helping their community by improving skills rather than infrastructure. Supporting people by honing their skills in, say, IT, is extremely valuable".

If you would like to find out more about how to get involved in employee volunteering in Wales, please contact Jill Salter.