Dedicated student volunteers find ways to combat coursework and financial pressures

January 17, 1997

'It's beneficial for work'

Kate Sarjent, a final-year student of mathematics at Nottingham University, juggles her studies with a position on the management committee of student community action and voluntary work at a local school.

She attributes her success to staying organised. "I don't think my studies have suffered. You just have to be careful about organising your time," she said. "There's more voluntary work I'd love to do, but final-year studies are very important."

She helps one morning a week in a local primary school and attends to committee business for a further three hours a week.

She hopes that when she enters the employment market her voluntary work will stand her in good stead. "It is incredibly beneficial on job application forms. Employers are not really interested in you if you've just got a degree: you need to be able to offer extra things."

Ms Sarjent feels her work in the school has taught her leadership and teamworking skills and that her work with the management committee has helped her decision-making: "I intend to apply for managerial positions, and these are the skills they are looking for."

'My job has to come first'

Ian Meredith, a second-year business management student at Swansea University, is blunt about his priorities. "The job comes first because you need your money," he said.

His involvement with the student community action programme has suffered this year because of his part-time job in Sainsbury's. He said: "Last year I was a lot more involved but my employment has curtailed that."

Last year he was project coordinator and chairman of the fundraising committee for Kids Away, a project giving deprived children a weekend's holiday. This year he is involved only as a helper.

He said: "You can be doing whatever you like, but when you've got to go to your job, you've just got to go."

He is quick to play down the CV-enhancing aspect of his voluntary work. "I think I'm past that - when I was at school I did a lot of things to get them on my CV, but I do Kids Away because I get satisfaction from it. Working with kids is something that I'm good at and I enjoy doing."

'The degree suffers'

Jenny Wood's degree in politics, philosophy and economics at York University has ended up taking a back seat to the variety of voluntary work in which she is involved. "It's obviously very difficult to combine the two and it's the degree that suffers."

She describes her voluntary work - babysitting for other students and work with the York community action programme - as taking up most of her time.

"I end up spending most of my evenings and weekends on my voluntary work, and only two or three days a week on my degree."

Last year, Ms Wood also combined her voluntary work with eight to 16 hours a week in a clothes store. She said: "You end up doing a part-time job for money, and voluntary work for transferable skills, and you find you can't really do your degree anymore."

She is confident the skills she has gained from her voluntary work will be very useful in job interviews, although she stressed this was not her motivation. "To me the voluntary work is going to end up being more important than my degree, because it's going to help decide me what I'm going to do."

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