IU Volunteers' Week: Andy's story

Andy Birkett, Business in FOCUS volunteer, IntoUniversity Leeds

Business in FOCUS Days are one-day volunteering opportunities for a team of Corporate volunteers. Organisations host a group of students for the day and support them in completing a business simulation activity that tests their teamwork, organisation, communication and leadership skills. 

Andy has taken part in two Business in FOCUS Days with our Leeds centres. We asked him why he volunteers with IntoUniversity - and what his experience has been like so far. 

My attention was grabbed by the opportunity to help young people, particularly those from difficult backgrounds or with English as a second language, to realise their potential. I also felt that the business angle meant that I would be able to draw on my day-to-day experience at work, and share a little about the world of work with the participants.

On one occasion I worked with a team of around 10 young people to help them prepare a bid to host the fictional Global Games. I explained a little about the different roles the children would take on, such as Marketing, Finance or Managing Director, helped with the different bits of paperwork they had to complete, and coached them in how to handle face-to-face “business meetings”. 

I’ve also played the part of one of the organising committees, assessing the written work and presentations put forward by the team, and displaying a few acting skills during “visits” to the host cities and interviews with the young people.

I always enjoy seeing the enthusiasm, good humour and energy which the children inject into the task. I find it refreshing and reassuring to see them throw themselves into a challenge like this. It’s great to be able to help them identify skills and qualities they perhaps never knew they had.

Volunteering with the Business in FOCUS programme has given me the chance to understand some of the challenges faced by both young people in our local communities, and those supporting them in their education. Working with groups of people I don't usually work with on a daily basis has helped my relationship-building skills, and compiling and delivering constructive, positive feedback is another skill it was useful to practice, and which can applied in the workplace.

I think the students will have benefited from working with adults other than teachers – it’s a totally different relationship and dynamic. I also like to think that I’ve been able to give out some encouraging feedback, and perhaps helped the young people focus their minds on skills they may wish to develop, or careers they might want to pursue.

I would wholeheartedly recommend volunteering with IntoUniversity. The people are really friendly and helpful, making the days a pleasure to be involved with. You’ll get the opportunity to work on communicating with and relating to young people, which may well not be part of your usual day-to-day work. 

It’s great for the children themselves to get out of the classroom and meet some new adults, and you might be surprised by the attitudes and enthusiasm on show!

Andy Birkett, IntoUniversity volunteer

If you'd like to find out more about volunteering with IntoUniversity, please visit our website here

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