In anticipation of a busy start to the academic year in September, we thought it wise to get our new Student Volunteer Team as prepared as they possibly could be before they break up for summer. Our first training day took place on Wednesday 4th June at Coventry University’s Jaguar Building. The main purpose of the day was for the team to get to know each other, and hopefully form some key partnerships (and maybe some friendships) along the way.
The weather certainly didn’t decide to be kind to any of us. Thankfully the heavy down pour didn’t deter the team from attending, and by 10:15 we were well on our way. The day began with some ice breakers, designed to settle nerves and for names to be exchanged. After some rather suspect catching by the V&E trainers during the ‘Did you catch that name’ introduction exercise, we were soon all acquainted and ready to learn. We then got to know each other a little more by designing shields for one another stating our position in the team, where we’d like to be in five years, and the top three items we would need on a desert island. It’s perhaps a sign of the times that an i-pod was on most people’s lists, (despite the fact that electricity might be hard to come by!)
In order to inform the team about Volunteering and Employability, we held a series of multiple choice quiz questions where we discovered that 70% of our registered volunteers this year were female, and the most represented year group, in terms of registered volunteers, was in fact third year. This was a much more interactive and interesting way for them to learn the facts and figures about our student volunteers than endless powerpoints.
After a quick coffee break, we then went into discussing the Student Volunteer Team itself. This was a nice way to gather the thoughts of the team about what they saw as the SVT’s main roles and responsibilities. We were happy to discover that the team’s thoughts largely matched with our own, but it was also great to know that they have their own ideas for next year, which, after all, is what student-led volunteering is all about. A key theme running through their suggestions for SVT activity next year was peer to peer endorsement. Students who have been through the volunteering process helping out new recruits and offering their experiences as a way to convince more people to take up volunteering. They’ve certainly given us a lot of food for thought when it comes to our summer planning sessions taking place in the next few months.
A busy morning was rounded off with lunch and a chat. While we tried to figure out how to get the sound working on the PCs, the team got to know each other a little more, sharing stories about their studies, where they grew up and their volunteering experience to date. The weather may still have been miserable outside, but a nice, warm atmosphere was forming inside.
The afternoon was more focused on practical workshop training, looking at the logistics of working as part of a team and the importance of using team meetings to plan the delivery of events.
The students were introduced to some key theories surrounding team work, such as Tuckman’s four stages of team development, and Belbin’s team roles. This was a chance for them to self-reflect and to be aware of how their own team might develop and grow together. They were also able to see some of these theories play out in practice when they were tasked with building structures out of pasta and marshmallows! Admittedly it was amusing to see the banter start to develop between the males and the females as accusations were flying around, one group claiming the other had stolen their ideas! I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide which group was the accused, and which the accuser.
The afternoon was rounded off with a mock team meeting in which the team was tasked with planning an event. They had an agenda to follow, and action points to decide on. They all did tremendously well, sharing ideas, discussing the pros and cons of each potential decision and taking down notes accordingly. Hopefully this is a sign of great things to come.
After a busy day, we all left feeling ultra positive about the year ahead and the prospect of working together to improve Volunteering and Employability as a service. I encourage you all to keep an eye out in September/October, where hopefully the new team will be introducing themselves to students and hopefully recruiting some of you along the way.