According to SkillsActive, the sector skills council for the active leisure sector, there are around 5.8 million volunteers operating across the UK and sport is the largest single sector, accounting for around 28 per cent of all volunteering carried out. In Sport England’s latest Active People Survey (APS) 2010/2011, it was revealed that three million adults (3,078,900) contribute at least one hour a week to volunteering in sport.
Over the four years leading up to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, UK Sport is on track to have delivered more than 80 major international sporting events, giving a terrific platform to up-skill our sporting volunteer workforce. Indeed, UK Sport is now looking far beyond London 2012, to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2014 Ryder Cup, 2015 Rugby Union World Cup and the 2017 World Athletics Championships.
A large number of programmes are targeting both young people and adults, as a way back into work or to undertake a new qualification. SkillsActive leads the development of the volunteer workforce and actively seeks ways to promote volunteering across the sector.
The London 2012 effect
Managed by SkillsActive, Personal Best was the London Olympic and Paralympic legacy programme designed to offer unemployed and disadvantaged people the opportunity to gain a Level 1 qualification in Preparation for Event Volunteering. Launched in 2007, it harnessed the unique motivating force of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to engage socially-excluded people and lift their aspirations and create new life choices. The promise was that every Personal Best graduate would be given the opportunity to apply to become a London 2012 Games Maker.
The programme was gradually rolled out across the English regions and Scotland with a 10-week programme after the initial pilot in London in 2009. The results speak for themselves with 4,462 people achieving a Level 1 Award in Preparation for Event Volunteering at the end of 2010. 976 of those graduates found employment or have gone into further training and overall they have delivered more than 101,000 volunteering hours.
SkillsActive managed the volunteer development programme for WorldSkills London 2011 on the back of the success of Personal Best. More than 300 individuals across the six London host boroughs enrolled on the programme and delivered around 5,600 hours of volunteering. WorldSkills competitions, held every two years, sets world-class standards in 45 skill categories and gave London the unique opportunity to showcase and celebrate vocational skills across the UK.
Glasgow was chosen as the pilot city for Personal Best Scotland with the overarching aim of reducing unemployment in the city through sport with the catalyst of the London 2012 Olympic/Paralympic Games and 2014 Commonwealth Games. The pilot programme allowed 150 people to undertake wide-ranging employability activities, a national vocational qualification and a volunteering opportunity, to assist their progression into employment or further training.
The Personal Best pilot in Glasgow was effective in engaging the traditionally hard to reach long-term unemployed male client group, with 75 per cent of the participants falling into the long-term unemployed category.
The results exceeded all expectations with an overall 47 per cent of graduates entering employment (the target was 40 per cent) and an impressive 85 per cent now engaged in further volunteering (the target was 80 per cent). The biggest barrier to the Personal Best roll out in Scotland now is how to fund the programme.
London 2012 has recruited 70,000 Games Makers to volunteer during the Games and every Personal Best graduate who applied was guaranteed an interview to fulfil the unique commitment of the programme.
Thousands more people will be asked to help out in a wide range of activities across the UK including welcoming visitors at airports and tourist sites; working with visiting teams in their training camps; providing back-up for police services; running school sports and serving tea at street parties.
Volunteers will be the lifeblood of London 2012 and the interest in applications to be Games Makers was overwhelming with 250,000 applying – 40 per cent of whom had never volunteered before. Perhaps volunteering could be London’s greatest legacy as people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds, come together and thrive on the buzz of the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Volunteering in sport
Looking at the national governing bodies of Sport (NGBs) and other sporting organisations, volunteering programmes are very much at the heart of developing club structures and nurturing sporting talent across the UK.
The England Hockey Board (EHB) is gearing up for an incredible 12 months with the London 2012 Olympic Games just around the corner. A nationwide campaign, the Hockey Nation programme, has been launched with the aim of capturing the imagination of the British public. With events and activities, including The Big Dribble and Five Week Frenzy between now and the Games, the EHB is also looking to recruit its biggest and best volunteer workforce, or Hockey Makers, as they will be known.
“London 2012 presents hockey with the biggest shop window you could ever wish for,” EHB chief executive Sally Munday explains: “We’re rolling out the most ambitious public engagement programme of any sport to drive awareness and interest in hockey and, ultimately, to get more people picking up a stick. To achieve our goals we are going to need our biggest and best ever team of volunteers.
“Our team of Hockey Makers lies at the core of making the Hockey Nation programme a success. Gone are the days when volunteering simply meant acting as a steward at an event. The sheer variety of opportunities on offer will open up volunteering to a new generation. Our vision is to inspire a whole new group of people, of all ages and backgrounds, to get involved in any small way, to be part of the Olympic sport and enjoy a truly rewarding experience.”
Volleyball England is also extending its network of volunteers in 2012 through an expanding team of Higher Education volunteers, which is inspiring young people to take up the sport.
The Higher Education Volleyball Officer (HEVO) programme is gaining momentum with 54 HEVOs now in posts at universities across the country. The programme supports students by training them to coach volleyball, encourage other students to take up the sport and set up recreational sessions and tournaments.
Eve Porter, a HEVO at Sunderland University has virtually single-handedly introduced the sport to her university, creating a new club, which has grown to become one of the most successful sports clubs at the facility. As a sports student, she has devoted most of her spare time to creating a solid foundation for the club with a clear pathway for beginners through to elite players. She is now looking to reach out to community clubs and encourage students to volunteer their time to developing the game across the region.
Mayor’s Sports Legacy Fund
The Mayor’s Sports Legacy Fund recognises that volunteers are the bedrock of community sport and aims to motivate club volunteers by providing subsidised training in volunteer mentoring, management and coaching qualifications. The programme is part of the London Mayor’s multi-million pound investment into the city’s sporting infrastructure and is managed by the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure.
It offers a 75 per cent subsidy towards courses in coaching and officiating, community sport, volunteering, leisure and disability sport to support local communities through sport, for new volunteers and to up-skill those already involved.
Katie Couchman, project manager of the Mayor’s Sports Legacy Fund, highlights the London Borough of Redbridge Swimming Club as a shining example of the impact that the fund is having on London communities, by helping to qualify new teachers. Chief coach Paul Robbins says: “Becoming fully qualified is prohibitively expensive for many people and unfortunately we can only offer a small amount towards training costs. Overall 90 per cent of our club staff embraced the funding support and we now have an abundance of qualified teachers delivering classes for an extra 50 swimmers already. It has been priceless for the club and has sustained our future.”
Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust
The Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust (DKHLT) is a delivery partner in the £1bn Youth and Community Strategy, unveiled by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The funding aims to deliver on the 2012 Games promise to inspire a generation to get involved in sport. It allows the expansion of DKHLT’s Get on Track programme, which supports young people at the very margins of society.
Get on Track, delivered over eight to 12 weeks, aims to provide disadvantaged young people with the chance to enhance their confidence and employability skills, by working with the charity’s team of international sports stars over a series of training and mentoring days.
Volunteering is a central theme to the programme, giving young people the opportunity to carry out school or community-based projects, which often places them in new situations.
In summary, the efforts of NGBs, charities and organisations, combined with the huge opportunity presented by London 2012, have brought volunteering in sport to the forefront of the leisure industry. There is no doubt that increasing numbers of people from all walks of life are being engaged and inspired to volunteer. The real challenge now is how to keep them involved.
For more information visit: www.skillsactive.com