Volunteer to Career: how volunteers boost the NHS workforce

19th April 2022

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Helpforce’s Volunteer to Career (VtC) programme is helping talented and motivated young people into NHS careers via volunteer roles. This helps both the volunteers and hospital trusts. It helps people from the local community who want a career with the NHS, and it helps NHS Trusts with their workforce strategies . Volunteers get a peek into life in a hospital, valuable careers advice from Clinical Leads and 1-1 support in applying for NHS Job Vacancies. NHS recruiters get a supply of engaged self-starters with real-life health service experience into the applicant pool.

For the past year Helpforce has been supporting a pilot with five trusts and 65 volunteers, funded by the Burdett Nursing Trust. The first cohort has already been showing signs of success with 67% having gone into either jobs, training or education in a health-related field. Of the 65 volunteers 16 have applied for jobs in health, and 14 have gone to further education courses or clinical training in healthcare.

Emerging evidence suggests benefits all round: for volunteers, the departments where they volunteer and NHS Trusts in general. Our survey found that 70% of VtC volunteers want the volunteer role to lead to a job in a similar organisation. 94% of volunteers reported increased confidence in career ambitions as the programme progressed. Departments running the VtC programme reported increased staff capacity, time saved and a better patient experience. There are also noticeable systemic changes with regards to attitudes to volunteering at senior level.

Mark Burrett , Helpforce’s programme manager for the scheme says: “One of the best things we are seeing, earlier than expected, about this programme is the change in mindset at senior level. Trusts are incorporating the Volunteer to Career programme into their workforce strategy. Some have opened up a career pathway to all volunteers in their hospitals, not just those on the Volunteer to Career programme.”

Evaluation includes completing a Self Assessment Tool with Senior Management, clinical staff & volunteers. A tailored report gives a 360 holistic view, to help organisations identify where they can improve and grow career pathways for volunteers, how to positively influence how much the organisation values volunteers as a future workforce, and how to embed VtC practices into business as usual.

Surveys will be completed in April 2022. Early results show signs of systemic change at an organisational level. Helpforce is looking forward to sharing findings in early summer.

Volunteer to Career Coordinator Joanne Smith

Volunteer manager’s story

Joanne Smith is a health visitor at Bradford NHS Care Trust and is the newly appointed Volunteer to Career coordinator, a role funded by Helpforce. She says volunteers are a really valuable part of her baby clinic team: “They are often the most consistent person there. They get to know babies and parents and create a welcoming atmosphere, freeing up staff to help those with problems. Staff all agree they’d be lost without them.

Helpforce helped structure the project. I was taught how to write a proper project plan and collect data, to build evidence of the value of the project. I would not have been able to grow the project, and get funding for a band 5 co-ordinator, to work across three trusts, without them. Helpforce also brought volunteer project leaders together from across the country so we could share ideas.

I’ve seen the volunteers gain confidence and clarity on what they want to go for. One has chosen to study to be a dietician, another to do paediatric nursing. Volunteering gave them a chance to see what it’s really like working for the NHS. It is also helping us to bring really motivated and passionate people into the workforce.”

Volunteer’s story

One of the scheme’s success stories is Mia Gilfoyle, now a healthcare assistant at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, who began her career at the same hospital. She says: “I began volunteering doing play activities on a children’s mental health ward. I also helped at A&E, entertaining the children and chatting to adults while they waited.

Volunteering changed my life. When I first started volunteering it was a difficult time in my life but it really helped to change it and I became a better person because of it. I learnt lots of social skills. I was quite before and now I speak to anyone and anything. I became more independent, took on new challenges and learnt how to keep my head on in stressful situations.

I got advice from the nurses and healthcare assistants about different jobs you can do, and who to speak to if you’re interested. A healthcare assistant on the ward told me about a vacancy and I applied. I was lucky to be able to shadow and see what the job involved and learn some skills. At the interview the recruiters were really interested in the volunteering I’d done, and that really did help me get my job. I still use the skills I learned from volunteering in my day to day routine, I’m hoping to eventually train as a nurse.”

If you would like to learn more about the programme, please email help@helpforce.community