Volunteer virtually to inspire the future You can help young people to engage with the digital industries from the comfort of home. Claire FletcherNews and Opportunities and Skills29th January 2021Careers EducationInspiring the FutureVolunteering Inspiring the Future is a volunteering platform that links up schools and colleges with volunteers who want to help young people to consider their future careers and aim high. The programme believes ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, and works to challenge gender and social stereotypes. It has a focus on ensuring that young people – and particularly girls – are engaging with STEM industries throughout their education. In a recent webinar hosted by Sheffield City Region Enterprise Advisor Network and Inspiring Futures, we heard more about the platform and how virtual volunteering could be your chance to inspire young people into the tech industries. How does it work? Inspiring the Future from Education and Employers has a free online portal for schools and colleges, and for individuals who want to volunteer. On signing up, teachers can publish specific opportunities, search for volunteers that meet their criteria, and invite them to participate. Volunteers can use the portal to search for opportunities by location and to apply, as well as responding to invitations from teachers. In response to the pandemic, Inspiring the Future has introduced virtual volunteering whereby teachers facilitate sessions with students and one or more volunteers, using platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangout. This has ensured that young people aren’t missing out on crucial career-related learning. It has also made volunteering more accessible, with less time and travel requirements, and has increased opportunities on both sides as volunteers can interact with schools and colleges anywhere in the country. Why volunteer? The benefits of volunteering your time, skills and knowledge are widely recognised. Inspiring the Future volunteers have reported increased motivation, better job satisfaction, the development of skills including public speaking and communication and improved confidence. For some people, there’s just too much going on at the moment to even consider a new challenge and that is completely understandable. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve found yourself with more free time, or the last year has encouraged you to try something new. If you work in the digital tech industries and love your job, simply speaking about how you got into your role (whether this was a conventional route or not) and answering questions could make a huge difference to a young person’s future. It could also really help to diversify our sector, showing children and young people what opportunities exist in tech, and inspiring them to ‘be what they can see’. Creating role models Pippa is a Business Development Manager at Devices for Dignity, which develops medical technologies for people with long-term conditions and is part of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. She shared her experiences of volunteering with Inspiring Futures, during the webinar. Pippa has followed a non-linear path into her role, having studied for a science degree before working in city growth and then advanced manufacturing before moving into the medical technologies sector. She wants to see more role models for girls in STEM industries and so decided to volunteer with Inspiring Futures. Before the COVID-19 pandemic Pippa took part in face to face activities in schools including mock interviews. She explained that she gradually learnt how to ask questions that draw out different information from the students, so they gave a fuller picture of their skills, interests and abilities. Pippa has also done virtual volunteering with primary school pupils, taking part in an activity in which she is asked questions by the students, who then have to guess what her role is. She said: “Don’t worry if your role is quite niche, young people are interested in having their minds opened!” Pippa said that volunteering during the pandemic has helped her to feel like she is still doing something to help whilst being stuck at home. She also said speaking about her role has been great practice for sales and investment pitches and recommends it to others. Get involved Everything you need to find out more and sign up as a volunteer is available on the Inspiring the Future webpage. Once you have registered for the portal you’ll receive resources to help you get started, including a Volunteers Handbook and safeguarding guidance. If you do get involved, we’d love to hear about your experiences of volunteering and share them as part of our drive to diversify the tech sector and develop the pipeline of talented young people coming into the industries. Drop us an email to let us know what you’re doing and it is going.