Nick Collins, Junior Achievement

Help others and develop yourself – become a volunteer!

By Nick Collins on 21st August 2018
Nick Collins
PDMS’ Nick attending JA Europe Company of the Year Competition

Employer-supported volunteering (ESV) is a scheme where businesses allow their staff to volunteer during working hours. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations describes ESV as time off for individual volunteering or in a programme developed by the employer such as a team challenge event or an ongoing arrangement with a community partner.

If you know me, you will, without a doubt, have heard about my involvement with Junior Achievement (JA). If you don’t know what JA is, it’s one of the world’s largest youth-serving NGOs delivering programmes in financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship to over 10 million students in over 100 countries.

Their flagship programme is the Company Programme which helps students prepare for their working life through the experience of running their own business, with support from a volunteer business mentor. Students then have the opportunity to take part in the national finals in their home country, and should they win the national competition, they will then go on to represent their country in the JA Europe Company of the Year Competition which, this year, was held in Belgrade, Serbia.

Once students have completed the Company Programme, or any other JA programme, they can then go on to join the JA Alumni which is a group of like-minded individuals who want to give back to JA and share a passion for entrepreneurship and leadership. I myself am a JA alumnus who is still heavily involved with JA and, thanks to PDMS’ ESV scheme, I have been able to take time out of work to volunteer for an organisation that I care for.

Because of my involvement with JA Alumni and PDMS’ ESV, I recently had the privilege to be part of the jury for the Alumni Leadership Award at the JA Europe Company of the Year Competition in Belgrade. Over 200 students from 39 teams gathered to compete with their counterparts from across Europe. The award is given to students, who demonstrate outstanding leadership skills that have a positive impact on their team and business.

JA relies heavily on volunteers, and in Isle of Man alone, JA needs more than 400 volunteers each year to support school initiatives. JA as a whole has over 465,000 volunteers globally who deliver programmes to more than 10 million students in over 100 countries each year.

ESV can prove very beneficial to employers. It can help to develop future leaders, improve employee skills, retain staff, enhance reputation and brand image and is a valuable investment in the community. As well as being beneficial to employers, ESV also has excellent benefits for employees, such as the opportunity to develop fundamental skills in areas like leadership, coaching and organisation. It can also increase confidence, improve communication, team working, creativity and much more.

Having volunteer experience on your CV is a great way to get noticed by future and potential employers as it demonstrates that you are motivated and hardworking despite not being paid for your efforts. According to a survey by workSMART (a Trade Union Congress website) found that: ‘three-quarters of employers prefer to recruit people with volunteering experience on their CV rather than those without it. Voluntary work is unlikely to be the main factor that persuades an employer to take on a particular applicant, but it will certainly help your chances. At the very least, employers favour people who show enthusiasm, energy and drive, and there are few better ways to demonstrate those characteristics than by doing voluntary work’. Even though volunteering is unpaid, it can also provide you with an insider’s advantage if the non-profit you are volunteering for has an opening for a paid position.

Many companies on the Isle of Man, like PDMS, have an ESV scheme in place and by doing so it really makes a difference to the local community. It has a positive impact on our community as it empowers individuals, ensures the delivery of important community services, builds a sense of pride, accomplishment, purpose and satisfaction, and can transform the lives of others and improves wellbeing.

I have been a volunteer with JA for just over four years, and during that period I have found that it has improved my confidence dramatically. This is because, through JA, I have the opportunity to meet many different people from all over the world and talk about something I’m passionate about.

This may come as surprise to some people but I used to be quite shy and lacking in confidence, but JA has taken me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to adapt at a pace that suited me. I never thought volunteering could involve travelling around the world and to date I’ve visited countries including UK, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark! Through my involvement with JA Alumni I have had amazing opportunities to travel to conferences, participate in board meetings and other events all as a volunteer.

So, if you aren’t already volunteering for an organisation go out there and start. If your employer offers an ESV scheme, even better! It’s extremely rewarding, and I cannot recommend it enough.