Sixteen to 30-year-olds are being given the chance to gain ‘real world’ experience by volunteering at a selection of Scottish charities.
Project Scotland, a youth volunteering organisation, has established strong links with Edinburgh’s The Blackwood Foundation, which supports people with disabilities and other needs, and is set to take its total number of current volunteers up to six.
Its volunteering project has been designed to give young job hunters the opportunity to work at an organisation and gain a wide variety of skills they can use to enhance their employability, while also providing a benefit to local communities and charities.
The project has also been noted for its triumph at providing volunteers with a platform to progress into full time employment or higher education.
One success story has already come from Blackwood volunteer Paul Richoux, who wowed the company so much he was offered a full time role as social media coordinator.
Richoux, a recent languages graduate from Edinburgh University has high praise for the volunteer programme.
He said: “When I graduated from university I knew it wasn’t going to be easy securing full time employment, so I decided to keep myself busy by volunteering.
“I then discovered Project Scotland, which has been fantastic at providing me with a range of charities I could involve myself with.
“Blackwood was my first choice, they jumped out of the page to me, and I was thrilled to be able to come in to help them out as a volunteer.
“The experience went so well I was eventually offered a full time job, which I was delighted about. Now I spend most of my time helping to implement Blackwood’s new push for providing its residents with access to digital technologies in order to improve their quality of life.
“One of the fantastic projects I’m currently working on is for bespoken – an online forum which provides an outlet for those with disabilities to communicate and connect, and also share ideas on ways they can improve their quality of life.”
Current Blackwood volunteers, Anais Durand and Ryan Pearson were also won over by their recent experiences with the programme.
Durand said: “Blackwood is a housing and care provider which means there is a genuine empathy and compassion for people in general, which is the impression I got when I first started my internship. They made me feel welcome and needed, which motivated me to produce good work.”
Pearson also echoed Durand’s sentiments, and was delighted when he recently got the opportunity to become heavily involved with Blackwood’s bespoken social network.
He said: “I really enjoyed going away to Birmingham with Blackwood to promote bespoken to Naidex 2014 – which is a care technology exhibition.
“I also got to speak to our online bespoken members and attract new members to sign up to our online community, while listening to their stories and having engaging conversations.”
Colleen Robertson, communications and marketing manager for Blackwood, is delighted at the success of the programme, and the influx of creative talent they have received.
She said: “We love to give opportunities to young people looking to gain experience and learn about the way we run the Blackwood organisation.
“The volunteer programme is run in conjunction with Project Scotland and so far we have had a wealth of talent who have provided the company with fantastic and creative ideas.
“The team are fully supportive of our new digital ethos and are doing a sensational job at brainstorming new ideas that we can implement within the company.
“We have a designated creative zone to provide our volunteers with the freedom to create ideas, we have a whiteboard wall where they can freely scribble their thoughts and a collection of tablets where they can stay up to date with our social media channels and search for all the latest news.
“The program has been a resounding success, with all volunteers so far going on to achieve employment or undertaking a higher education course.”
Blackwood Homes provides a range of accessible, modern, attractive and bespoke housing aimed at providing great value to people with a range of disabilities and housing needs.