24 October 2011 By Northern Lights
New undergraduates at York St John University who volunteer for charities in the city and get involved in the local community are more likely to stand out in the jobs market.
York St John is running a number of campaigns in partnership with the Students’ Union to ensure that new students get added value from their studies, get on with their neighbours and give something back to the city that will be their home for three years.
“At York St John you are a somebody not a number and that is reflected in the volunteering ethos and sense of community at the university,” says Anu Priya, who is opportunities co-ordinator at York St John Students’ Union following the completion of a masters degree in counselling. “As a city centre campus we have so many neighbours around us so students have to fit in with their local community and be part of it.
“Last year we brought in community co-ordinators for the first time and it worked well. They attend meetings with local residents to look at issues and how we can help bring students and local people closer together.”
Anthony Payne, head of student experience, and his team run YSJ Connect that provides a one stop shop for information about, volunteering, employability, internships, part-time and graduate job opportunities – encouraging students to take a holistic approach to their personal and career development.
“Volunteering for a charity, being active in a university society or helping in their local community can help students to stand out in the employment market. It enriches them as a people and connects their studies with broader life experiences. If a graduate has been actively involved in their community then they’ll have an edge when it comes to finding a job.”
Ryan Sandford-Blackburn, campaigns and communications co-ordinator at the Students’ Union, held a number of volunteering posts while studying film and television production at York St John.
“Our ‘Be Part of It’ campaign encourages new undergraduates to get off their sofa and join a society, or get involved in a local charity. We run taster sessions and will look for volunteering opportunities in York with local charities if students have a particular interest.
“Lots of careers and jobs require you to have good people and communication skills. A survey we did last year showed that employability and careers are two of the biggest concerns for students after academic achievement. Volunteering for a local charity or being involved in a university club can give you an edge when it comes to job hunting.”
York St John students volunteer with charities ranging from those working with children or the elderly through to mental health projects. Rachel Earnshaw, senior youth and community project officer of BTCV, which runs environmental projects in York, says: “Currently we have a project called BUGG (Buddy Up Green Group) which relies totally on York St John students’ involvement. The aim of the project is for students to work with peers in the community who have special needs or disabilities to carry out environmental projects as a team.
“The experience is so valuable for their CVs even if the work is not directly related to the career they want to pursue it is good for showing, commitment, teamworking, communication skills, good character and so much more. I think it also helps to reduce the barriers that there can be between students and the “locals”- it’s about giving something back to the community they are living in.”
Jane Barnett is a mentor with York mental health charity. She says that working with the university brings mutual benefits, particularly to her clients: “Two York St John students worked with us earlier this year running digital media workshops with our clients, enabling them to work alongside people of similar age and to see that university could be a reality for them too. The students shared skills and experiences and gave our clients renewed confidence and esteem.
“It is very important that students have an experience of being involved in local charities to understand their community and share their skills and experiences for the benefits of others – it builds community cohesion and peer support.”