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Volunteers vital to many Broads businesses

PUBLISHED: 08:49 18 August 2017 | UPDATED: 08:49 18 August 2017

Megan Thrift. Picture: Tom Barrett

Megan Thrift. Picture: Tom Barrett

Archant

The Broads Authority (BA) is currently in the process of implementing a new volunteer training programme that will help younger candidates build up a skills base.

Museum of the Broads curator Nicola Hems. Picture: Museum of the BroadsMuseum of the Broads curator Nicola Hems. Picture: Museum of the Broads

UEA student Megan Thrift spent eight weeks of her internship at the authority interviewing volunteers to come up with a plan that will improve their skills, increase satisfaction amongst volunteers and also create a workforce pool from which the Broads Authority can recruit new staff.

Volunteer coordinator Beth Williams said the authority has around 150 volunteers working for it at any given time.

She said: “They carry out a variety of duties from assisting rangers to admin and event roles and help in pretty much most areas.”

Volunteers are typically older, retirees, but Ms Thrift believes the new programme can be used to assist university students and school leavers build up valuable skills making them more employable.

Volunteers assist with a variety of functions including everything from working in the field to helping around the office. Picture: James Bass PhotographyVolunteers assist with a variety of functions including everything from working in the field to helping around the office. Picture: James Bass Photography

She said training had previously been done on an adhoc basis, which meant senior management were not always aware what training volunteers were receiving.

“The idea of creating a training programme is so that the Broads Authority has a standardised system giving it a record of what the volunteers are capable of doing.

“At the moment there is no record of what volunteers have achieved and we want to create a handbook that they can take to an employer to show what they have done for the Broads Authority.

“We are hoping that by having a more structured training programme in place, the idea of volunteering will become more appealing to students and graduates or even working people who want to change their career and need to build up some experience.”

Many Broads organisations rely on volunteers for help. Picture: Andrew StoneMany Broads organisations rely on volunteers for help. Picture: Andrew Stone

The authority is one of a number of Broads organisations that heavily rely on volunteers to keep them going. The Museum of the Broads has just two salaried staff and 80 volunteers working for it. Curator Nicola Hems said volunteers were “absolutely vital” to the functioning of the museum.

She said: “Without them we would have to pay salaries but we just don’t have the money for that. They carry out a range of duties for us which includes general maintenance, fund raising and reception work.”

Volunteers on why they do it

Museum of the Broads volunteer Caroline Male has offered up her time freely to the organisation for the past five years.

The former Aviva employee works as a marketing coordinator for the museum, which is based in Stalham.

She said: “I lead a team of five volunteers and we decide as a group where we plan to spend our advertising, what marketing initiatives we get involved in and how we use social media.

“I was working full time for Aviva as a marketing and communications manager when I joined the museum as I knew I would retire someday and wanted something to keep me busy.

“The company was very supportive of its staff volunteering and thanks to technology I was able to do my museum work outside of work hours.”

She encouraged others to volunteer their time. “There are a lot of people out there with skills that a lot of organisations could benefit from.”

Paul Willison, 65, a retired engineer, has been volunteering with the Broads Authority for the past eight years.

Mr Willison said after retiring from his full time job at age 57, he wanted something to keep him active.

“I love the outdoors and meeting new people and I wanted something that would allow me to experience both. I started volunteering with the Broads Authority within a few months of finishing up at my job.”

He said he assisted with everything from mowing footpaths and moorings to carrying out repairs and maintenance work to bridges and bird hides.

“I’ve also been involved in water sampling and plant surveys. It’s very varied work filled with lots of different things and it keeps me fit and busy.”

He said the work had taken him all over the Broads.

“It’s very rewarding and I would recommend it to other people who enjoy the outdoors.”

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