Volunteer Manager Trainee, Lyme Park
Alice Devitt completed a degree in Contemporary Crafts, and was juggling various part-time jobs when she discovered the Volunteer Management Traineeship at Lyme Park.
How did you feel when you found out you had been selected?
I was really, really chuffed for lots of reasons. For nearly two years, all the jobs I’d been juggling just weren’t meaningful jobs. I wanted to do something that was going to develop my skills, so this seemed like a good opportunity and the start of something new.
What are you most proud of achieving in your time as a Volunteer Management Trainee?
The highlight for me was being able to see things I’d implemented happen at my property, and being able to see new initiatives changing other people’s lives for the best. I was particularly proud of the Youth Ranger group I set up.
At Lyme Park, we had no voluntary opportunities for under-eighteen’s and I wanted to change this. I found that we were turning many young people away who had an interest in conservation, outdoor work, wildlife and nature. Learning about other Youth Ranger groups within the National Trust sparked my interest, and I knew that if the ranger team wanted to collaborate we could make it a success at Lyme Park.
It’s really great to see young people assist and participate in a group that builds their confidence, and gives them an array of skills - dry-stone walling, fencing and fire-lighting to name a few.
How else have you reached out to younger volunteers?
More recently we've had some really young volunteers. We’ve got a girl who’s an art host, and she’s only 14. I think in the past, we turned away younger people, but I’ve been really keen to find a way to make it work for us by opening the doors.
Why do you think it’s important for the National Trust to engage with younger and more diverse audiences and volunteers?
It’s important because it reflects the general population. I think in the past, the National Trust has seemed very traditional, and hasn’t necessarily appealed to younger people or a more diverse audience. But with the National Trust’s ambition to teach and inspire, with all sorts of different programmes, such as this traineeship, it’s shifting its perception to reach new audiences, and volunteering will reflect that.
Within 10 years, I don’t think our core volunteers will be able to give so much of their time. Knowing our younger population of volunteers just don’t commit in the same way – for example, students can only work weekends or holidays, we already struggle to fill gaps in the rota. This means we need to increase our volunteer team in the future, just to have enough people to cover the roles.
Why do you feel the role of Volunteer Manager is important to the National Trust and to the volunteers?
The National Trust has a massive strategy for volunteering, a huge vision, and they put lots of investment into it. But how can you implement it at an operational level if there is no one there to facilitate it? For volunteers, having someone to focus on their experience and acknowledge what they are contributing helps to improve their volunteering experience.
What do you think about the Heritage Lottery Fund supporting people like you and funding training schemes like this one?
It’s money well spent because it has been a really good experience. I’ve learnt new things and it’s had a positive impact on the property as well. New people and younger people have been able to volunteer at Lyme, and I’ve managed to recruit over 120 volunteers.
If my role as Volunteer Management Trainee didn’t exist, that probably wouldn’t have happened here. Hopefully this project may get the National Trust and the wider heritage sector thinking more about the future of volunteering.
What would you like to do next?
At the moment, I definitely want to stay within Volunteer Management. I’m very open-minded about where I might end up moving to, but it’s important for me to work with volunteers within a charity setting, whether the cause is conservation or more people orientated.
Since finishing her traineeship, Alice has secured a full-time role as Volunteering Support Officer at Creative Support (www.creativesupport.co.uk), a social care not-for-profit in Manchester.