DigiLocal People – James

James began volunteering with DigiLocal in May 2022. He is one of the volunteers supporting young people at Filton Community Centre. You can see the full programme of current clubs on our calendar.

DigiLocal Calendar of club sessions

James’ colleague Elisa with young people at our Filton Club.

We asked James why he spends an hour of his time each week supporting young people as a volunteer mentor with DigiLocal.

With the world changing so quickly around us, it has never been more important to support the young people that will build the society of the future – particularly in understanding how we can make the best of technology and the opportunities and challenges it brings.

There is an obvious focus within the clubs on supporting young people. We know that participating in coding activities helps to develop key problem solving skills and build their resilience. However, it’s also important that our volunteers feel benefit for giving their time. We asked James how he benefited from volunteering.

Along with the fulfilment of contributing to young people’s learning, I believe volunteering is a two-way street with many opportunities for mentors to develop too. For instance, young people often apply incredible creativity to problems and this is particularly true when combined with the technology and coding skillset that DigiLocal provides.

Data from STEM Learning on the benefits of volunteering.

Many leading firms have volunteering programs for their staff. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer with a range of charities, so we were interested to know why James chose DigiLocal.

DigiLocal has been a great fit for me, and I would recommend it highly to anyone in a similar situation – the density of engineering companies close to the DigiLocal hubs in Filton and Patchway particularly make for a very convenient stop on the way home for many. Also, I feel DigiLocal’s focus on placing hubs where they are most needed goes a long way to improving equality and community cohesion in the future.

Volunteering with DigiLocal is a commitment to the young people. Our clubs run every week throughout the year, including holiday periods. We do try and add in external challenges and opportunities to keep things fresh for both young people and volunteers. That long term engagement isn’t always easy to balance with hectic work life and other pressures, so we asked what kept James coming back each week.

For volunteers, DigiLocal offers a great balance between flexibility and structure. New mentors are supported their initial sessions and there are regularly new activities, challenges and themes to follow.

There are always things that go well, and some things that could be improved. We asked James for some of his highlights and lowlights of volunteering.

DigiLocal is all highlight! My only minor feedback as a volunteer would be that the number of young people can vary quite a bit between sessions.

Each club supports up to 10 young people, with at least two volunteers in a session. We send out reminders to parents before each club session and most are very good at letting us know if their young people are unable to attend. We do maintain waiting lists for our popular clubs and if young people don’t attend without giving notice three times, then we offer their place to the next on the list.