We recently posted about paid roles helping deliver ‘The National Citizen Service’ the UK based version of the International Citizen Service (blogged about regularly on these pages). While the National programme itself is for 16 and 17 year olds there are PAID opportunities available in the summer of 2015 to help deliver the UK programme. This could be working as a mentor, running workshops on different areas of expertise or helping at outward bound projects.
The Challenge Network are looking for 3,500 paid staff to work on the programme. This is a fantastic opportunity to work in a growing, vibrant organisation, alongside groups of young people, motivating and leading them to strengthen their communities. It would provide valuable and tangible hands on experience to anyone interested in a career in policy, charities, NGOs, social enterprise or government.
Applications are now open so please be sure to check out their website and JobOnline and apply ASAP.
We spoke to one of our colleagues in Queen Mary’s Careers & Enterprise Centre, Lucy Smith who worked as a senior mentor with The Challenge Network in the summer before joining us as an event manager.
Lucy, what was the senior mentor work? The government is funding a programme called National Citizen Service aimed at encouraging 16 / 17 year olds to engage in social action projects. It ticks lots of boxes about community cohesion and getting young people engaged. The project also includes funding for people like university students to get paid work helping the groups of young people create and deliver the social action projects.
What do the projects consist of? Senior Mentors will be engaged over a period of around three months. An induction weekend where we get trained as team leaders; two 5 day residential periods with the young people that combines team bonding through fun outward bound type activities and classroom work covering topics like ‘community engagement’, ‘social action’ and confidence building. By the end of these residential periods the groups should have clarity about what they want the project to deliver and the rest of time is working with them in the community ensuring they deliver the project.
Why did you do it? Well I had just finished my degree at St Andrews and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. The project was a good way of doing something constructive, get paid for it and establish myself back in London. In the end it was much more than that in many ways.
Running classes sounds like it might be challenging. What was your experience of it? A lot of the lessons are already pre-written and you have all the material you need. Sure you have to be able to get on with young people but really getting them to talk about what they like and dislike about their communities isn’t that difficult. Getting them to be inspired to create a project is a challenge but again it wasn’t that difficult.
What did your group decide to do? Well I, and they, wanted something that would make a difference and be exciting to do (our target group was very young children in the community.) We wanted to raise over a £1000 that would be donated for a disabled children’s charity operating in our local community. The exciting part was we decided to raise the money with a sponsored row down the river Thames. Like many of the outward bound things in the residential weekend though we had professional support. The adventure group we hired were really safety conscious but, at the same time, it really felt like an adventure in a way that doing a cake bake sale wouldn’t have been. On the day itself we had loads of press in attendance and were blessed with great weather. It was certainly something the young people will remember. In fact the project as a whole has been recognised as one of the top three projects in the country
What was challenging about being involved? Well during the period after the residential you don’t have a particular base but this is the time when the students have to get into action. So it was a lot of work getting them together and keeping them on track and inspired to ensure they delivered the project. Ideally you are trying to ensure they take on the responsibility for the project but in reality as a team leader I was taking a lot of the responsibility – I was ambitious for the project myself really.
What did you get out of it? Well in the end the project itself was great and we had a terrific day on the Thames. I was also aware that I had a really constructive summer that added to my CV. I can imagine that hanging around being an unemployed graduate wouldn’t have done my confidence much good. Instead of which it confirmed for me that I had good organisation skills, could project manage, be good with money and get acknowledged for it. One thing that took me a little by surprise is that I found I could inspire people. I would really recommend to any graduate who isn’t sure of their next step, to join the NCS movement for the summer. It was a brilliant experience and prepared me for my next career move.