Skilled Volunteer Expo
Volunteer roles in the Not-For-Profit (NFP) sector have the potential to be much more significant than “office filing” or “sausage sizzling”, but most organisations need a helping hand to get complex volunteering projects off the ground and to gain access to relevant skill sets.
QUT identified this gap and created the Skilled Volunteer Expo to foster meaningful connections between motivated teams of students and NFPs. With QUT’s support, 22 participating organisations created 61 projects with 100+ skilled opportunities for students across all faculties. The Expo attracted over 350 student attendees, and 115 student applications were received for the associated projects.
Benefits to tertiary students, graduate employers and/or tertiary institutions
For students, the Skilled Volunteer Expo and associated volunteering opportunities provided:
- A direct focus on building professional skills and putting theory into practice
- Opportunity to combine valuable work experience with meaningful community service
- Holistic projects which involved Real World cross-disciplinary teamwork
- A guided and supported environment for exploring the social and professional benefits of volunteering
- An insight into career pathways within the NFP sector
- Clear direction to the projects that suited individual skill-sets and desired experiences
For NFP organisations, the Skilled Volunteer Expo provided:
- Opportunity to make improvements or address problems faced by their organisation
- Dedicated QUT assistance in the development of skills-based projects for volunteers
- Access to motivated students with relevant skill sets
- Opportunity for informed discussions with interested students
- A structured and supported recruitment process
- Exposure of their cause and volunteering opportunities
For QUT, the Skilled Volunteer Expo provided:
- New and stronger links with NFPs that continue past the Expo
- 100+ placement opportunities for students
- Recurring volunteering opportunities for students
- Demonstration of QUT’s commitment to the Blueprint 4’s focus on Real World learning and a culture of community and service.
Benefits to NAGCAS
With many institutions shying away from unpaid work experience placements in the commercial sector, skilled volunteering placements within NFP organisations can fulfil students’ needs to practice the skills and theory they are learning in class.
The Skilled Volunteer Expo provides NAGCAS members with a Best Practice model for engagement between NFP organisations and tertiary students, by reaching out to NFPs and providing practical support in the development of skilled volunteering opportunities and projects that benefit the organisation, and which in turn provide valuable work experience and community service exposure for students.
The Skilled Volunteer Expo also illustrates a Best Practice Career Fair concept, where exhibitors/ employers work closely with the Careers Service to communicate detailed information of opportunities to students in the lead up to the Fair, meaning that students are better prepared and informed about options that suit them.
Traditional volunteering fairs focus on traditional volunteering activities – most of which are unskilled. QUT stepped outside this box, and put in place a number of innovative procedures to create an event focussed on skilled activities and long-term NFP relationships:
- QUT identified a gap in resources within NFPs which could be filled by educated and skilled student volunteers, and worked with NFPs to develop project concepts and scope
- All submitted projects were assessed by QUT for their quality, learning objectives, and suitability of mentor/supervisor within the NFP
- Projects were widely promoted prior to the Skilled Volunteer Expo
- Applications were managed through QUT’s Real World Placement Program
Innovative outcomes from the Skilled Volunteer Expo include:
- New relationships and opportunities for QUT in the NFP sector
- Clearer pathways and benefits for students engaging in volunteer work
- A shift in NFP perspective on the viability of skilled volunteering projects and students as a valuable volunteer resource
A new model of Career Fair where projects and opportunities are detailed and made available to the student population prior to the event, stimulating informed discussions between NFP representatives and students.