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Creating volunteer to career pathways

Published: 19/12/22 | Categories: Volunteering, Author: Fiona Liddell

Early findings from volunteer to career programmes are showing positive results according to Fiona Liddell, WCVA’s Helpforce Cymru Manager.


Early volunteer surveys conducted by Helpforce suggested that while roughly two thirds of volunteers within NHS settings were interested in a career in health and care, generally they had told no one in their organisations and had never been asked about their career aspirations. What’s more, clinicians that were consulted were interested in developing volunteering but didn’t know how to go about it.

These insights lead to the idea of piloting a more structured ‘Volunteer to Career’ programme (VtC).


The VtC programme is about systemic, organisational change as much as it is about creating meaningful volunteering opportunities. Organisations undertake a self-assessment at the start and finish of the 12-month programme. This assesses the organisation’s maturity in relation to clinical leadership, support for volunteering, cultural and environmental factors, and the integration of volunteering with other workforce development pathways.

Data is collected, including from surveys of staff, service users and volunteers, to monitor the impact of the programme and the aspirations and progress of volunteers towards career outcomes is tracked at regular intervals.


Bradford District Care NHS Trust

A flagship VtC project in Bradford District Care NHS Trust involved recruiting five volunteers aged between 25 and 55 years, to help out in community baby clinics. The programme aimed to help volunteers to gain experience that aligned with their career goals, whilst at the same time building a skilled potential workforce for the NHS.

Volunteer roles included greeting and chatting with those attending clinics, providing information, emotional support and signposting as required, and helping with baby growth measurements.

A career support plan was drawn up for each volunteer and they attended various support sessions to assist them on their career pathway.

Aneurin Bevan UHB

In Wales, a VtC project funded by Burdett Nursing Trust is underway at Aneurin Bevan UHB.

Working with community partners, the programme is accessible to anyone interested in a career within a health and care setting and can specifically support those who have no qualifications, students of English as a second language, students of health and care courses, those with learning disabilities, older unemployed people and others who face challenges due to their life experiences.

Volunteers are recruited to a general befriending role, based on the wards. Through closer working with colleagues in other departments, including HR, facilities and Workforce and Development, volunteers gain transferable skills and exposure to a range of career options.

Volunteering is seen as a first step, after which individuals may progress to a paid general role as a Wellbeing Assistant, anywhere within the hospital. And this can, in turn, lead to a variety of more formal career pathways.

‘The experience of volunteering can help people in the choice of careers they might make,’ said Claire Jordan, Senior Nurse at ABUHB. ‘People coming onto wards get to see not only the work of a nurse or health care assistant, but also see how porters work, the admin teams, catering teams. There is so much opportunity to see a lot of different roles.’


An evaluation of the Bradford pilot reports promising, positive outcomes in terms of the four areas considered:

  • Volunteers’ progress towards careers in health in care
  • Organisational behaviour in relation to volunteering
  • The experience of front-line staff
  • The experience of service users who receive volunteer support

Catherine Jowitt, Head of Charity and Volunteering says: ‘The volunteer to career programme has contributed to a culture shift within the organisation where volunteering is seen as part of the solution, not only for workforce challenges, but also in supporting recovery and moving people away from services.

‘The programme enabled the trust to develop a new type of volunteer role, with much more clinical focus, and the role of the clinical lead has been vital. The positive impact on the service, families accessing the service, and most importantly on volunteers has been truly impressive.’

Helpforce can aggregate data from different projects to strengthen the evidence base.

In the first cohort of five projects, almost 90% of the 33 volunteers who completed the VtC pathway either secured employment in the health and care sector (for example as lab technician, activity worker, healthcare assistant) or went on to further education/training in health and care careers (including nursing, psychology, psychotherapy).

Other positive findings are emerging, relating to patient, staff and volunteer experience of the programmes.


In the light of the pilot, Bradford District NHS trust is committed to embedding the volunteer to career leadership role as a substantively funded post, to continue the development and growth of this work:

Although the number of volunteers involved was small, the report declares: ‘Volunteer to career is now one of the strongest and fastest developing elements of the trust’s Volunteer Strategy, alongside the impact of volunteering on recovery.

‘A long-term investment is essential to ensure that our trust, staff, volunteers and service users continue to experience the benefits and advantages of Volunteer to Career that contribute towards the future workforce and improved experience for service users. It is essential that Volunteer to Career is further invested in to continue to scale and spread the opportunities within all services.’


By next March Helpforce will be working with 41 different VtC programmes. This will provide more robust data and further learning to develop a more convincing case for expanding the work more widely.

Most of the current funding for projects is applicable to England only and there is a head of steam to see whether funding can be secured to develop the work in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland too.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in discussing how a volunteer to career programme might be relevant to your own organisation, or if you would like to keep in touch with volunteer to career developments elsewhere, please get in touch:

A service guide has also been published to help you adopt and adapt the VtC programme in your organisation. (You will need to register on the website to have access).


Helpforce Cymru is working with Third Sector Support Wales (WCVA and 19 CVCs), Welsh Government and other partners to develop the potential of volunteering to support health and social care services in Wales.

Visit the Helpforce Cymru webpage, or to receive email updates, sign up here and choose the option ‘health and care volunteering’.