Kathryn Thomas, Project Manager in the Patient Experience and Involvement Team at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, explains why they have embedded volunteer to career pathways as part of their volunteering offer.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) has been investing in the recruitment and support of volunteers over many years now. Volunteers are valued members of the healthcare team, providing companionship to patients and to vulnerable people in the community. Volunteering helps to address loneliness and isolation and fosters connections within the wider community.
We have always looked to support volunteers into employment if we can, but previous work in this area came to a stop with the COVID pandemic. So when the opportunity came for funding from the Burdett Trust for Nursing and to work with Helpforce to establish better volunteer to career pathways, we jumped at the chance.
INCLUSION FOR ALL
Our volunteer to career programme was launched in 2022 and sits well with our ongoing commitment of inclusion for all.
We began by making extensive contacts in the community, speaking to Coleg Gwent health and social care and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students, secondary school pupils, customers at Job Centres and visitors at careers fairs. We linked with County Voluntary Councils, Careers Wales and with Cardiff University. In each case we were planting the idea of volunteering for career, for those aged 16 years and over.
Through Coleg Gwent learning disabilities team we recruited two students with autism and through Cardiff University, 75 first year pharmacy students are gaining patient experience, by volunteering on the wards.
A simple but significant change to our recruitment process was to ask everyone the question ‘would you be interested in a career in health?’ Older, as well as younger people often say that they are!
People who have no formal qualification still may have a passion for supporting people and a desire to seek employment. This is where our volunteer to career programme can make a real difference.
Volunteers find a sense of purpose, belonging and worth. They build up friendship groups and can see a wide range of careers in action within the hospital setting – including admin, physio, portering, management and nursing. They learn new skills, gain personal confidence and they shape their own ideas about their future.
We ensure that everyone is in an environment where they feel comfortable. Younger volunteers, for example, tend to be happier in a small community hospital rather than a busy acute hospital.
There are around 20 different volunteer roles that we can offer. Volunteers are trained and recruited to be hospital ward based volunteers and can build on that with additional training to become, for example, dementia companions, end of life companions, to provide hearing support, cancer support, or help with patient surveys.
We work closely with different hospital departments to review and develop new roles. At the moment we are looking at a new employer supported volunteering (ESV) wellbeing role, to support ABUHB staff working in the Caerphilly Borough. We are also talking with our alcohol support team about volunteers supporting a friendship group for people referred to their service.
VOLUNTEER TO CAREER PATHWAY
If volunteers express interest in a career in health, then once they complete at least 30 hours of volunteering with mentoring, training and support, they are given opportunities for further volunteering or work experience across other areas of interest to them.
Placements are arranged in a bespoke manner, in consultation with each individual and our work experience team. We support volunteers to make the necessary contacts and to submit applications as necessary. Internal job vacancies as well as training and work experience placements are open to volunteers.
We have created a new Wellbeing Assistant Band 2 paid role, which requires no formal qualifications, only experience – and their volunteering experience fulfils that perfectly. Volunteers often need help though to recognise and articulate the skills that they have developed.
So far, two volunteers have gained jobs outside the health board, one has begun a university nursing course and five have been appointed to posts within the health board (as Wellbeing Assistant, Health and Care Support Worker and within a pharmacy, GP surgery and the resource bank, respectively).
Some of them still continue to volunteer with us.
All of this supports the health board ‘people plan’ by contributing to workforce sustainability. Although our team sits outside of the workforce department, we have developed closer working links. We will now be reporting to the People and Culture committee, so we are able to raise awareness among senior managers and union reps about what we are doing, including how we are supporting the idea of working with the health board as a career of choice.
We have been lucky that it has been so easy for us to embed volunteer to career within our processes. We already had our volunteer service well established. With small changes and the goodwill of so many partners we are now able to support many more individuals toward their career of choice, either within the health board or elsewhere.
We continue to promote volunteer to career even though the funded project has formally ended, and to work with internal and external organisations to develop new options for volunteers. A dedicated admin post that was funded by the project is now funded by the health board to enable the work to continue.
Most importantly, we will continue to support our volunteers, giving them the best experience to help them on their volunteer to career journey.
This case study comes from our Helpforce Cymru project. Helpforce is working with Third Sector Support Wales (WCVA and the 19 County Voluntary Councils), Welsh Government and other partners to develop the potential of volunteering to support health and social care services in Wales.
The Helpforce Cymru page on our website includes links to recent articles, blogs and case stories.
Find out more about Helpforce Volunteer to Career programme.
VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION SURVEY
We’re currently seeking responses on our volunteer recruitment and retention survey.
To complete the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/gwirfoddolwyr-volunteer-2023