Volition by Donna Denston (Waterside Member)

Donna, who has been a member of the Waterside for 8 years, is the Volunteer Manager at Volition, a company that specialises is employability through volunteering. Having spoken to Donna about the work she does, we were interested to find out more and to find out ways the Waterside could get involved.

Donna, could you tell me about Volition?

Volition is a small charity set up by Manchester Cathedral to help people into employment. Our aim is to enable people to develop so that they can achieve as much as they can, raise their aspirations and ultimately increase their employability. Volition supports individuals who are unemployed, or underemployed on part time or zero hours contracts. 

How many people do you tend to work with at a time? 

Roughly 12 people at a time. 120-140 go through the programme a year. The programme is 1 day a week for 10 weeks and includes group work, interview skills, support with CVs, visits to businesses across the City, volunteering opportunities and anything more specific to the individual that may help their employability. New groups start every five weeks, so people seldom have to wait very long to access support.  

Why do people need support? 

A lot of today’s recruitment processes are computerised. This leaves those without extensive work histories out in the cold. Rejections lead to despondency and confidence can quickly erode. We work with the long-term unemployed who may struggle to get an interview but equally we see people from all walks of life: In the past 5 months Volition has supported a swim instructor, a government vet, a market stall holder, a junior football coach, graduates, people with physical disabilities and anxiety issues and landscape gardeners. 

Could you tell us about some of the success stories you’ve seen?

We’ve had some great success stories. In the past six months alone the following come to mind.

We have been working with Adeel for 12 months.  He’s a young guy with spectrum related learning difficulties. These have made social contact challenging and have negatively affected basic life chances that we all take for granted.

A life-changing event as a younger person triggered periods of depression resulting in years of medication and worklessness. He has never been in meaningful paid employment and his ability to pick up on nuance and follow instructions is limited due to his cognitive development. Without the time needed to settle and develop personal confidence he has been unable to progress and move to independence.

Adeel completed our 10-week formal programme and with joint support from the team, his peers and family has continued to attend one day each week to volunteer as a steward on Manchester Cenotaph. This period of volunteering on the Cenotaph has brought Adeel into contact with hundreds of people from all over the world and given him the chance to develop his social and communication skills so prerequisite to any form of paid employment.

In August 2019, contact was made with one of Volition’s employer partners – The Victoria Warehouse – with a view to arranging a short work trial as a kitchen porter. We met with the Victoria Warehouse team in advance who were fully briefed on Adeel’s abilities and needs prior to placement. 2 months, 3 trial shifts and many conversations later, Adeel is employed as a kitchen porter with The Victoria Warehouse. Adeel, his family and the whole Volition community are delighted for this positive outcome and we continue to offer support

JK: Is 20 years of age and has never had a paid job. Whilst on the 10 week programme JK volunteered with the gardening team and felt he would like to work outdoors. Volition put him in touch with a construction company offering a 13 week paid placement.  JK is part way through his placement and there is a guarantee of a job upon successful completion.

RB: Has been unemployed for 8 years. Volition asked Randall and Aubin, a city centre restaurant if they had any positions. RB went for an interview for a kitchen porter’s position, started part-time and is now fulltime.

MI: MI is a qualified vet from Iran.  His lack of English was holding him back and without the knowledge of how to convert his qualifications to ones recognised in the UK his future was looking bleak. Volition found a charity called RefuAid that assist medically trained ‘refugee’ professionals from overseas. Their funding has allowed him to start an IELTS programme at Manchester Metropolitan University.  Volition has also worked with Manchester Volunteer Centre to get MI a voluntary vetinary role at Manchester Dogs Trust.   MI’s future now looks a lot more secure and he intends to progress onto UK Veterinary studies when his English is at a sufficient level.

I know you have been working with one of our Duty Managers who has past experience with Volition, how has the Waterside helped so far?

Waterside have been donating redundant toiletries from their hotel bedrooms. This not only reduces wastage, which I know the Waterside are keen to do wherever possible but has also assisted some of the individuals we work with who are struggling financially due to unemployment. We are also in talks with Waterside about arranging a potential site visit and also about any future job opportunities.

How can people get involved?

Anyone who is unemployed and wants to come along can give us a call or drop us a line. We have a new intake every month. We also engage with employers to increase awareness and source opportunities so if there are businesses in the Greater Manchester Area who would like to be involved, please contact me donna@volitioncommunity.org Of course we welcome donations.  We are funded purely by private donation.

“Being on the programme has taught me to believe in myself again, it’s grown my social skills, helped me realise my strengths and stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t such a bad thing, it actually helps you grow as a person.” – Amie Smith