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New Technology to Scale-up Student Volunteering at Institute of Technology Tralee

Dec 7, 2016

New Technology to Scale-up Student Volunteering at Institute of Technology Tralee

 National Launch of StudentVolunteer.ie

Every year in Ireland thousands of students from our universities and institutes of technology carry out over 100,000 hours of volunteering. IT Tralee and nine third level colleges have now joined forces to develop studentvolunteer.ie - a brand new online resource which matches students’ interests with volunteering opportunities. The portal is the first of its kind globally and aims to enhance students’ awareness of their role and responsibility in solving challenges such as homelessness, social exclusion and our ageing population.

“For me volunteering means taking time out and doing something in the hope it will help make a difference, however small, to someone else’s life. Knowing that my work is valued and in exchange getting the chance to observe happiness around me and to experience the same myself is wonderful. Without previous volunteers I wouldn't be where I am today in my sporting career. It’s time to give back and create even more opportunities for the future of others.  Clodagh O’Halloran, BSc. Health & Leisure Studies (Physical Education), IT Tralee and player for Munster Rugby

Potential users include up to 100,847 (HEA 2015) students across all higher education institutions and up to 8,000 registered Civil Society Organisations. For charities such as Barnardos, Habitat for Humanity, TeenLine and Special Olympics Ireland, student volunteering is a vital component of their ongoing work:

“At Barnardos our volunteer opportunities are as varied as the personalities of the children we work with. We have volunteer opportunities available within our shops and at fundraising events, both of which are vital volunteer roles as they raise funds for Barnardos services. We are delighted to be working alongside this great new hub to match volunteer opportunities within Barnardos with students of the Higher Education Institutions across Ireland.” Suzanne Connolly, Volunteer & Supporter Engagement Service, Barnardos

Shortlisted for the 2016 THINKTECH awards, studentvolunteer.ie has been developed under the umbrella of the Campus Engage Network based at the Irish Universities Association. There are currently 10 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) invested in the portal: IT Tralee, UCD, NUI Galway, UL, MU, Trinity, IT Tallaght, DCU, UCC and DIT. The online system is open to ALL Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), private colleges, VECs, etc.

Students at IT Tralee can browse and apply for volunteering opportunities nationally or internationally; manage their profile and volunteering activity online; track volunteering hours; gain recognition and apply for volunteering awards.

The civic role and responsibility of colleges and their graduates is becoming a central issue in the global education discussion, with increasing pressure on institutions to demonstrate how higher education is adding value to society.

“By effectively using technology to make volunteering easier, Campus Engage is helping universities and institutes of technology to scale up this socially impactful enterprise.Kate Morris, National Coordinator, Campus Engage, Irish Universities Association.

The value of volunteering is recognised by the United Nations who have designated December 5th as International Volunteer Day (IVD).   

Volunteering has numerous benefits for students and for society. Ireland’s new National Skills Strategy 2025 focuses on graduate attributes such as high level cognitive, leadership, entrepreneurial, analytical and interpersonal skills. Volunteering is an excellent outlet for students to test, refine and put these skills into action. These skills are very much valued by employers:

“In my role as Managing Director I am always looking for that potential employee that has an extra edge in respect to experience thus I would encourage all students to invest their time volunteering throughout their education and beyond. It not only contributes to your personal development but it opens doors to huge possibilities. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without those experiences.” Niamh Daffy, IT Tralee Alumni, Managing Director CARA National Adapted Physical Activity Centre

Organisation and management are key nursing skills - my volunteering gave me the opportunity to hone these skills. It also gave me an opportunity to interact with different people of different ages and in turn, improves my interpersonal skills - all very important for my future career in nursing”. Ann-Marie Bright, student nurse, Institute of Technology Tralee

Evidence shows that getting out and volunteering can improve individual mental health and well-being. Volunteering is also an excellent pathway for international students in Ireland to integrate into their communities and make new friends.  Higher education institutions across the country are battling student retention. Getting involved in extracurricular activity on and off campus is proven to keep students in college. International volunteering cultivates core graduate attributes such as cultural awareness, languages and increased understanding of global social responsibility.

Higher education institutions are now acknowledging students’ volunteering achievements on their academic transcripts or diploma supplements. Participating colleges are beginning to use studentvolunteer.ie to track their students’ volunteer hours so they can recognise their efforts at the end of the college year in Awards ceremonies such as the President’s Civic Spirit Awards in IT Tralee.  

Launch of Student Volunteer