Volunteering for professional development


Jamie Bytheway | Operations Manager, Greater Manchester Higher

Jamie has worked within widening participation in Greater Manchester for a number of years and is currently the project manager for Greater Manchester Higher, which is a collaborative outreach and widening participation project across all seventeen HE providers in Greater Manchester. Greater Manchester Higher was formed in response to the HEFCE National Networks for Collaborative Outreach Project (NNCO) and is now leading on the delivery of the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) in the region. Jamie also chairs the Greater Manchester Looked After Children Forum, which brings together professionals from education and social care to support the educational attainment of looked after children and care leavers. It is also the NW representative on the NNECL national steering group. Outside of work Jamie sits on the board of trustees for Manchester Mind, a local mental health charity and is a governor at a local specialist primary school. Jamie was the first in her family to attend university and is passionate about diversifying entrants to Higher Education.

The challenge:

• I want to progress but can’t get the experience I need from my current role.
• I want to differentiate myself from colleagues.
• I want to give something back to my local community but don’t know where to start.

The solution: Volunteering!

In 2012 I was coming to the end of a fixed term internship in the careers team at the University of Manchester, and whilst looking for jobs I stumbled across a vacancy at a local mental health charity for a young trustee; no experience necessary. I’d always had an interest in mental health and decided to apply. Fast forward seven years and I am now part way through my third term as a trustee, and I chair the sustainability committee which looks at ways the charity can generate income to sustain and develop projects to support service users. I’ve also been a governor at my local specialist primary school since July 2018, sit in the personal development and wellbeing committee and I am the link governor for pupil premium. In my career I have progressed to a middle management level role at Manchester Met, which wouldn’t have been possible without the experiences gained through volunteering.

Through my volunteering roles I have been exposed to opportunities that I would not have experienced in my professional career. I get to make decisions at an organisational level, scrutinise budgets, support HR processes and work with others to develop a long term strategy for the organisation. This has given me the opportunity to develop skills that I can then demonstrate within interviews and utilise within my day job; and has no doubt enabled me to progress professionally. There are also opportunities to progress within volunteering roles, whether that be chairing committees or becoming the treasurer or chair!

Volunteering as a governor or trustee is also extremely rewarding as you get to make tangible changes to an organisation which impact upon the lives of service users and pupils.

Obviously volunteering shouldn’t just be about what you can get out of it. University administrators have a multitude of skills that would be an asset to any organisation; we are used to navigating changing and complex environments, have to adhere to governance and management structures and are used to working under ever-tightening budgets. Depending on our roles we’ve also got specific skills that can be of use, for example, marketing and communications or procurement.

Questions to ask yourself:

• What commitment is required? Both of my volunteering roles take from three to six hours a month. About half of this is time in meetings and half is time reading papers, preparing for meetings or visiting the organisation.
• How flexible is my employer? Some universities have HR policies to support staff to volunteer.
• Do I have time?

Where to go to out more information?

Governors for schools- www.governorsforschools.org.uk
Charity commission- the overarching body for charities: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/charity-commission
Do-it- advertises trustee vacancies: https://do-it.org/channels/trustee-finder


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