SVW 2017: supporting Code Club’s student volunteers

svwwebsiteIt’s Student Volunteering Week! And to celebrate, this year we’re profiling some of those who work with Code Club’s student volunteers to help them in running clubs. Student Hubs are just one of the organisations that have been supporting our work with students across the country. We spoke to Rachel Tait, Student Hubs’ Network Operations Manager, who told us about their work with over 50 Code Club student volunteers from a wide range of universities who work with pupils at over a dozen schools…

But what brings students to Code Club? Rachel explained to us a bit about what motivations students have to volunteer their time to Code Club: “The three primary motivations are to improve things / help people, to develop skills, and to gain work experience. It’s almost always a combination of these things. Applicants have been evenly split across first, second and third year students, which shows that it’s a relevant opportunity whether you’ve just started uni or are graduating soon. 95% of applicants study a STEM subject, many of which involve programming, so it’s no surprise that this is a popular volunteering opportunity for them. The good news for non-STEM students is that the software used in Code Club, Scratch, is very easy to learn, so don’t be put off from giving it a go!”

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“There are definitely some common themes for what people get out of volunteering,” Rachel told us. “Volunteers find it very rewarding to see the children’s increasing interest and confidence in coding. The other is that volunteers gain valuable skills and experience themselves. Teachers agree as well, with one teacher telling us, ‘I think working with the student volunteers has given our children some understanding of where their education can take them, what university is and has raised their aspirations to go to university when they are older.’”

Rachel also mentioned that volunteers can face challenges along the way. “It’s worth noting that volunteering with children in schools isn’t always smooth sailing. There have been issues such as low pupil attendance or challenging behaviour in the classroom, which can put volunteers off, but we’ve found that regular communication with the volunteers and additional coaching/training when necessary can help volunteers to solve problems themselves which makes their experience even more rewarding and developmental.”

Nevertheless, there has been a great response from students who have been volunteering with Code Club. In fact, the feedback has been unanimous; “100% of our 2015-16 Code Club volunteers would recommend volunteering with Code Club to a friend which speaks for itself. It’s a fantastic opportunity whether you’re looking to make a difference in your local community, learn basic programming, put your existing programming skills to use, or gain practical leadership, teamwork and communication experience. If you’re at Bristol, Brookes, Cambridge, Kingston, Oxford, Southampton or Winchester, please contact your local Hub team to find out how we can support you to become a Code Club volunteer. If you’re at any other uni, visit the Code Club website.”