My Employee Volunteering Experience with Young Citizens

Young Citizen’s Experts in Schools programme partners businesses with local school children. It provides professionals with the opportunity to work with small groups of young people to encourage discussion and debate about some of the most topical and relevant issues of the day. From fake news, to laws surrounding Social Media and the impact of a changing economic climate: the sessions are designed to provide students with valuable knowledge and sharpen life skills for their future.
“The programme gave me the opportunity to work outside my comfort zone, which was really appealing.” 
The programme I was involved in was specifically focused on economics and the ways in which the economy affects us all as citizens. I got involved because I wanted to do something that would help students understand business and the economy a little better, while utilising my professional experiences and communication skills.

I think young people often struggle to understand the economy, but given the lack of focus on it in schools it’s quite understandable. The same was true during my schooling. I definitely felt underexposed to the workings of the economy and how it could impact daily life when I was a teenager. So, this was my shot at making a difference to these boys and girls.

I found it really encouraging to observe the students’ interest in the economy during the workshop, but they didn’t necessarily understand how it impacted in their day-to-day life and big political decisions, like Brexit. This corporate volunteer programme allowed me and my colleagues (from different parts of the business) to help teenagers from our local community to learn a little more about this through semi-structured activities that foster healthy student engagement and debate.
“Volunteering is important from a personal perspective too, we can sometimes get lost in the corporate world of how our/our clients work can impact the wider population, so it is good to help educate young people on this to make ourselves more aware.” 
I have volunteered with Young Citizens a few times. Each time the experience has been different. New groups of students throw up different challenges and topics of conversation. The resources are a good prompt, allowing he conversation to flow in whatever way the students take it. It was also really interesting for me to spend time with young adults, which I rarely do, and to hear their opinions on the economy and Brexit.
A standout moment for me was seeing a student who was staunchly anti-Brexit having to debate that Brexit would be good for the economy. He did not agree with the arguments he was having to debate but became incredibly impassioned and started to understand the other side of the argument, helping his team to win the debate. To think critically and structure counter-arguments are advanced skills that will serve him well in the future.
“I would definitely recommend professionals from different industries to take part in the programme, it’s rewarding and often enlightening.” 
It’s a learning experience for both parties. I’ve found that the sessions have helped improve my communication skills, particularly being able to communicate on the spot. You never know what question you will be asked next by the students, so it requires you to think on your feet!

I think it is really important for professionals to volunteer with young people as it provides exposure to business people, awareness of possible careers and may even broaden horizons. Who knows, maybe one day soon I’ll be addressing the participants as colleagues or clients?

Ciara Martin is a Director in FTI Consulting’s Strategic Communications Team. She has volunteered on the suite of Young Citizens’ Experts in Schools programmes.

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