Where are they now? Meet former trainee, Gemma Jackson

Gemma Jackson, a former Volunteer Management Trainee standing with new colleagues at Diabetes UK

One year on from graduating, we caught up with former Volunteer Management Trainee, Gemma Jackson, who is now a Volunteer Support Officer at Diabetes UK, supporting 400 volunteers across the South-West.

What were you doing before the traineeship?

‘I was a supply teacher and felt a bit fed up - I was just looking for a career change really. So I started volunteering at Tyntesfield in Bristol. I began as a room guide then moved to the education team, which was a good cross-over with my teaching experience.

‘I really enjoyed volunteering because it got me out of the house, talking to lots of different people and it built my confidence. I was passionate that volunteering was a really positive thing in my life, so when I saw the traineeship advertised, I thought I would give it a go. I didn’t think for a moment I would actually get it, so it was a real surprise. That’s when the whole journey began for me.'

How did the traineeship prepare you for your role at Diabetes UK?

‘In many ways, my role as Volunteer Support Officer at Diabetes UK is similar to my traineeship with the National Trust, but in other ways it’s not. The organisations are so different. At the National Trust, the volunteers came to the property, so everyone is on site.

'Whereas at Diabetes UK, it's the opposite – this is remote volunteering and our 400 volunteers are spread across a huge geographical area. It has its own challenges, but actually, there was a lot in my National Trust traineeship that prepared me for this role, such as an understanding of the volunteer journey.'

" I feel like I wouldn’t have got the job I have now without the traineeship because I wouldn’t have had the right skillset. When I came for my interview at Diabetes UK, I didn’t talk about diabetes, instead I talked about volunteering – about recruitment and support, advertising, communications and everything else I had learnt with the National Trust."
- Gemma Jackson, former Volunteer Management Trainee

'It was the volunteering side of things that got me this job. I wouldn’t have had that experience before the traineeship, so it’s really taken my life down a completely different path that I wouldn’t have thought was possible.

‘It’s definitely changed me – it’s made me far more confident, which has helped me to approach schools and colleges about my work and give presentations. I did a presentation to 400 sixth formers when I was a trainee, which was really, really nerve-racking for me, but I actually needed to do that, and it built my confidence.'

Gemma Jackson (right) at a recruitment fair at Somerset College
Gemma Jackson at a recruitment fair in a school

Why do you love working with volunteers?

‘I just find working with volunteers really inspiring. Volunteers bring a building alive. I like to feel I’m giving something back to the volunteers that donate so much of their time, by supporting them and being a consistent point of contact.

'It’s important that volunteers feel supported and that they have all the knowledge and skills they need to do their volunteering to the best of their ability, but also that they know they are making a difference.'

" At the National Trust, it’s the people who make the place. You can’t have an empty building."
- Gemma Jackson, former Volunteer Management Trainee