Why you should consider participating in the Volunteer Futures Award

The Volunteer Futures Award gives recognition to students involved in volunteering. It helps students to make the most of their experience, reflect on the skills they develop and understand the relevance to future employment opportunities. Student Nigel explains why you should get involved.

The benefits of taking part

Participating in the University of Derby’s Volunteer Futures Award (VFA) is beneficial for any student in many ways. My personal experience with the VFA has been a particularly successful one; I grabbed onto this rewarding opportunity with both hands and was unwilling to let it slip away!

First and foremost, I chose to participate in the VFA because I wanted to gain recognition for my volunteering, while at the same time building on my network of connections with potential employers in my field of interest.

How to get involved

I found out about the VFA when one of my colleagues at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery (where I used to volunteer) brought it to my attention. She explained to me the benefits of getting involved in the VFA and from then on I was determined to check it out myself. I logged onto the University of Derby’s Careers webpage to discover more about it.

What I came across excited me; the thought of not only building on my transferable skills, but also gaining formal recognition for the extra-curricular activity that I undertake. One of the great things about this award is that it is not limited to one particular subject area; any student from any course can get involved and reap the same benefits. What’s more is that all completed awards for this scheme are listed on your Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). Additionally, you will receive certificates at the University’s annual Employability Awards ceremony, giving you something tangible to add to your record of achievements. I thought to myself “this is more than enough reason to get involved”.

Applying for recognition

The VFA is structured in three levels – ‘Recognition level’ (of which 20 hours volunteering is required), ‘Plus level’ (of which 30 hours volunteering is required) and ‘Leadership level’ (of which at least 50 hours volunteering is required). As part of the VFA online registration form, I typed a personal statement giving a thorough explanation of why I wanted to become part of the VFA, including a brief explanation of what my career aspirations are. I produced detailed examples of some of the volunteering I have undertaken in Derby to the present day; including how it has helped me to develop particular transferable skills, while at the same time enhancing my own knowledge of Physical Activity, Nutrition and Health (ie team leadership, communication and time management). When my 20 hours of volunteering experience was accepted and registration approved, I was granted the Recognition level of the award.

Moving up through the levels

Fortunately for me, my devotion to volunteering since becoming a student at the University of Derby in 2017 meant I had already gained a substantial amount of practical experience, so I only had to go through the workshops and complete the written reviews to be granted each level of the award. For the Plus stage of the award, I was required to attend three out of six available workshops. The first workshop I attended was entitled ‘All About Me’. This workshop helped me to understand the meaning of self-awareness, and the different types of self-awareness that actually exist, to help identify my skill set, values, character attributes and priorities. The key aspect of the Plus level was the understanding of how improved knowledge about yourself can help to increase your employability prospects.

The third and final stage of the award was the Leadership stage. This stage consisted of a detailed review of the first two stages and a 10 minute presentation to a panel of two people, covering my experience throughout the programme. The feedback I received on my presentation was very encouraging; to sum it up briefly in my own words, I was told that I explained myself in a clear and concise manner and arranged and structured my slides logically and professionally.

Future goals

My experience with the VFA workshops has enabled me to understand the difference between work related and transferable skills, how to create knowledge of my own skills with evidence to create an effective ‘skills story’, the most common transferable skills that employers are looking for, and how to continue improving my skills in an employment environment that is always changing.

My goals for the future are to continue adding content to my CV and LinkedIn profile, continue building on my portfolio of evidence (as it relates to my current volunteering roles in health and well-being) and embrace any new volunteering or paid work opportunities that would further improve my employability prospects. My experience with the VFA has made me feel more prepared and confident in my pursuit of these goals. I want to thank the University of Derby for making this opportunity so readily available to students.

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