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The Opportunities of Volunteering

29th September 2015


News reports continue to indicate that the UK is experiencing a skills shortage, with a recent PwC survey stating that almost two thirds of UK business leaders believe a lack of employees with key skills is hampering their firm’s growth prospects. Most individuals and organisations assume that additional training, simplifying jobs, or recruiting in the skills will overcome the issue.  

Sure, there are some skills that can only be acquired (and validated) via structured training and learning. But there are many other skills that can be learned “on-the-job”, and volunteering offers the perfect opportunity for individuals to develop a new skill whilst making a meaningful contribution.
I’ve had the privilege of being awarded both the BIFM “Special Interest Group Volunteer of the Year”, and the overall “Volunteer of the Year” this year. I put a lot of time and effort in to my roles throughout the year, but I do it because of the people I get to spend time with (and learn from), the skills I get to acquire along the way (networking, communication, event planning), and the experiences I get to be a part of (events, discussion groups). Individuals that I’ve worked with on Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have now become my personal mentors / coaches, an added bonus of volunteering.
With 13 SIGs and 11 regions helping to keep BIFM running smoothly, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. I’d highly recommend this to individuals who are looking to push their boundaries, or to extend their network. Even better, if you have a specialist discipline or a unique job role, come along and share your knowledge and experience with members – It may not expand their skill enough to become proficient in your discipline, but it would certainly help to raise awareness, or help inspire someone to become a specialist themselves.
Volunteering outside of the industry broadens horizons and skill sets even further. I have previously volunteered for a local charity as a “befriender”, going to visit a housebound 91-year-old once a week just for a chat. It was a pleasure to hear about her life and to see what a difference that visit made to her, all for just one hour of my week. Whilst this didn’t help me gain any business skills, it definitely helped with developing my people skills, and how to cope in emotionally charged situations. I also joined the board of my local volunteer centre to gain insight into director level business management, certainly something that easily translated back in to my day-to-day, but not something I would usually have exposure to in my job role.
I’d like to end this article with one of my favourite quotes, hoping that it gives individuals and organisations food for thought…
“Volunteers are not paid – Not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” Author unknown


Tanya Horscroft (nee Brick) is a facillities manager in Capita’s property and infrastructure business

This article first appeared in FM World 

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