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VPA Celebration 2012

Groundwork Environment Centre 5th December 2012

Welcome Hello and welcome to the VPA Celebration 2012 event at Groundwork. This event will not only recognise the achievements of our most recent VPA team, it will also be a celebration of our reaching the landmark of 2,000 VPA participants. Volunteer Project Assistant (VPA) placements have evolved at Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale since the early 1990’s but the basic idea has remained the same; to provide graduate volunteers with valuable work experience to help kick-start their careers. Today you will hear from our current VPAs about their placements over the past 12 weekks. You will also hear from three past VPAs about their time as a volunteers at Groundwork and how it helped them in their own careers. We will also explain how Groundwork can support VPA placements in local organisations. I hope you enjoy the event and if you have any feedback or want to know more about the VPA programme please do get in touch. Best wishes, Jo Fullman Education & Communities Project Officer T: 0161 624 1444 / 07850 310 733 E:


VPA Celebration 2012

Event Programme Welcome and introduction Jo Fullman The VPA Programme Overview Jo Fullman and Gemma Russell Projects, Countryside & Cakes A short video by the current VPA team VPA Presentations Liz, Tawanda, Karen, James Miguel, Rachel, Sarah, Tayo Certificate Presentation The Worshipful Mayor Of Oldham, Councillor Olwen Chadderton Previous VPAs experiences on the scheme Andy Darron, Helen Taylor, Huw Crompton New developments - external VPAs All That team at The Oldham Chronicle Buffet and Refreshments

VPA Celebration 2012


VPA History The VPA (Volunteer Project Assistant) programme started in the early 1990’s as the brain-child of Robin Henshaw, the then Executive Director of Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale. Robin was keen to provide unemployed graduates with real project management experience that would kick-start their careers and help them get a job in their chosen profession.

Having volunteers work alongside project officers was nothing new at the Trust, nor other Groundwork Trusts. The VPA programme followed on from other voluntary schemes including the successful VPP (Volunteer Project Programme). What made the VPA programme unique was that it was one of the first graduate placement schemes and participants had to commit to a 6-month placement. If the VPA found employment during this time, which many did, they were allowed to leave the placement. Graduates applied via a rigorous application and interview process, exactly the same as if they were applying for a Groundwork job. In the early days VPAs were placed with a member of staff and tasked with roles similar to paid members of staff. Graduates applied from far and wide and many relocated to Oldham or Rochdale just to take part in the VPA programme. Participants stayed with friends or family, in hotels and shared houses. In many cases


VPA Celebration 2012

the social aspect of the VPA programme was as important as gaining work experience. Fellow VPAs bonded and many friendships were made not to mention parties, romances and weddings! Over the years the structure of the VPA programme has evolved. Bill Brady was one of the first people to recruit teams of VPAs. The quality and coordination of VPA placements was further improved by others including Angie Hough and Hazel Egan. Angie also managed Team VPA, where VPAs worked on dedicated projects as a team, in addition to working within specific Groundwork departments. The VPA programme has been funded from various sources over the years including European Regional Development Fund, Oldham Council’s Single Regeneration Budget and a grant from Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. The funding sources unfortunately dried up but the programme continued, and for a few years the cost of placements

was taken from Trust Hopwood Hall College. overheads. In 2008, v The latest evolution of challenge changed all that! the VPA programme sees Groundwork v challenge was a 3-year supporting VPA programme of funding placements at other local that enabled Groundwork organisations. In addition Oldham & Rochdale to to VPA placements at continue to offer graduate Groundwork, partnerships volunteering alongside have been established voluntary opportunities at The Oldham for local young people. Chronicle and Rochdale Instead of a 6-month Boroughwide Housing. placement VPAs signed up for 3-months and more Over 2000 people have training courses were now taken part in the VPA provided as part of the programme with many placement. past volunteers going on to successful careers After a short hiatus in different sectors and following the end of v organisations. A number challenge, graduate of current employees volunteering returned at Groundwork Oldham to Groundwork in 2011 & Rochdale and other under the original VPA Groundwork Trusts are banner. The programme past VPAs and quite a is coordinated by few have even worked Joanna Fullman and their way up to senior placements now include management positions. a residential week and training accredited by

VPA Celebration 2012


VPA Programme Overview The Volunteer Project Assistant Programme is aimed at adults or Graduates who would like to get experience in the environmental or regeneration sector. The scheme lasts for 12 weeks and is a combination of work experience and volunteering to gain accredited qualifications in Practical Countryside Skills (Level 1) and Community Volunteering (Level 3). Volunteers will choose a department of Groundwork or one of our partner organisations to be based in for 12 weeks, to gain work experience in their chosen field. VPAs can take part in the full team programme to complete both qualifications or complete the Community Volunteering only placement.

Next team: April 2013 y 2013 to Friday 12th Monday 21st Januar

Why volunteer on the VPA Scheme? You can take part in an organised volunteering scheme, which will help you develop your professional skills and earn accredited qualifications: • Level 1 Certificate in Practical Countryside Skills • Level 3 Certificate in Community Volunteering For more information or to apply contact Jo Fullman: T: 0161 624 1444 / 07850 310 733 E:


VPA Celebration 2012

VPA Structure • Week one: Induction, team building, 2 night residential with Peak Park Conservation Volunteers (residential full team only). • Week two: Training and induction to your department. • Weeks three to eleven: Monday – Wednesday VPAs work on individual projects in departments of Groundwork. On Fridays we will go out on site to carry out habitat management. External VPA placements are Monday - Friday with weekly meetings with VPA staff. • Week twelve: Review, reports, final presentation and celebration of your achievements! What projects can VPA’s work on? The project placements we can offer as part of the scheme reflect the work Groundwork does as an organisation. We can currently offer placements in Business Development and Bid Writing; Business Services; Employability; Environmental Education; Event Management; Communities; Conservation; Marketing and Youth work as well as new opportunities in Journalism and Media with our partner organisation Oldham Evening Chronicle and projects at Bulky Bobs, Oldham. More external placements coming soon! Volunteers are given a project brief to deliver over the 12 weeks with the support of the VPA staff and volunteer team.

Discover more - browse the VP A Blog: http://groundwor kvpa.wordpress .com

VPA Celebration 2012


Current VPA’s Groundwork VPA

Liz Weston - Education Assistant Tawanda Nheta - Warmer Living project Sharaz Arif - Business Development Assistant Karen Lee - Landscape Design Assistant James Miguel Heron Iglesias - Warmer Living project Rachel Whitaker - Operation Groundwork: Boarshaw Clough Steven Rowlinson - Jubilee Colliery: Unearthing the Past Sarah Noone - Operation Groundwork: Boarshaw Clough Tayo Akingbala - Finance Assistant All That VPA Jake Wharton Daniel Martyniuk Kimberley Ward Rochdale Boroughwide Housing VPA Marc Sunderland - Community Action Team


VPA Celebration 2012

VPA Celebration 2012



VPA Celebration 2012

VPA Celebration 2012


Past VPA: Andrew Darron Andrew left Cardiff University in 1995 with an 2:1 Hons Degree in Environmental Engineering but found it very difficult to get work - the main barrier being the lack of any kind of practical experience. He spent 12 months selling suitcases and was getting very low. Andrew then saw the VPA advert and applied. A few weeks later he attended a selection day and was offered a position. He was Groundwork’s first Environmental Business Services (EBS) VPA. “I spent 6 months supporting my boss - Todd Holden - to develop an EBS programme, undertaking environmental audits, providing training and information services to businesses. This work was really cutting edge in 1997! After 6 months I got a paid position with Northwest Water. However, I had the Groundwork bug by then and when a paid EBS Officer position was advertised at Oldham 6 months later I returned and spent 5 happy years working for the inspirational Robin Henshaw, first working and then later managing the EBS programme.” “I left Oldham in 2003 to take up a role as Regional Manager at Groundwork NW where I worked for 7 years developing regional and national programmes including ENWORKS, Greening Greater Manchester, United Futures and Target: Wellbeing. In 2009 I joined Groundwork Manchester as Director of Development where I led the Trust’s expansion into Stockport and set up the social enterprise Blue Sky which is working to help tackle re-offending through employment. In 2011 I joined Groundwork Lancs West & Wigan as the Executive Director promoting the Groundwork vision to Wigan, Blackpool, Preston as well as expanding our territory to include St Helens, Knowsley Sefton and Liverpool.” “Choosing to leave the Suitcase Company and travel 250 miles to work for free is the most important career decision I ever took - and will be forever grateful to Robin Henshaw, Todd Holden and all those people that inspired me so long ago.”


VPA Celebration 2012

Past VPA: Helen Taylor Helen attended Hulme Grammar School for Girls, Oldham and went on to gain a BSc in Geography from Newcastle University, MSc in Marine Resource Management from Herriot Watt University and a post graduate diploma in Youth and Community from Huddersfield University. Helen’s career has been within the Community and Voluntary Sector. She started out as a VPA at Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale before becoming a Community Link Officer at Groundwork Manchester, supporting local communities to improve their environment. She then moved on to continue her community support role as a Community Development Worker for a local partnership in Longsight and developed youth facilities and programmes to address some of the priority issues on the estates. After a career break to travel Helen returned to Groundwork managing large scale community regeneration programmes across Salford and then became Operations Director for Community Development, Youth and Education Programmes across Manchester, Salford and Tameside. She was delighted to take up the role of Chief Executive of Mahdlo in July 2011. Mahdlo is a new state-of-theart facility in Oldham Town Centre that offers every young person in the borough the opportunity to access a top quality, safe and affordable place to spend their leisure time.

Past VPA: Joanne Cochrane After graduating from university in 2003 with a degree in Theatre and Performance, Joanne couldn’t wait to get out into the real world. She knew she wanted to bring theatre and the performing arts to communities that would not normally get the chance to take part and thought it was going to be easy to land a job getting paid to do what she loved. “I was wrong; the only things on offer were jobs in call centres and graduate placements in banks. When I finally found out about the VPA programme at Groundwork in January 2004 I was really intrigued, especially as it was offering the chance for one of the VPA’s to spend half of their placement at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre.” “As well as meeting loads of like minded people and going out for the occasional curry, pint and a quiz and of course lots of litter picking, the placement also gave me the chance to learn how community projects were put together. It gave me the space to create my own projects (A Green Theatre Installation at Oldham Gallery being one of them) and it rebuilt my confidence, reminding me that I did have skills which could be applied to the real world.” “Most importantly the placement gave me the important work experience that employers were looking for. It helped me to understand community work and after 6 months I successfully applied for a job with a community arts organisation in Rochdale called Pride Media Association. My employer was really impressed that I had committed to a 6 months voluntary placement and was surprised at the level of responsibility that placement had offered.” “I stayed with Pride Media Association for almost 5 years, developing and helping to manage community arts projects. Alongside this I studied for a Masters degree in Applied Theatre and eventually began my own company, Tracing Steps Theatre and Dance Company with my best friend Martina Roche.”


VPA Celebration 2012

More VPA Feedback “I feel more inspired to do different things. It has opened up my mind to new possibillities and a whole new future. Groundwork has opened up a whole new field of interest and future employment opportunties.” Sonia, past VPA

“I had just finished university and was worried about finding a job. I have had a great experience at Groundwork and I have met some very nice people. The skills I have gained have helped me to find a job.” Georgie, past VPA

Groundwork is an amazing organisation which helps people who are experiencing social disadvantage realise their full potential. It really helps turn around the lives of people and I would highly recommend them to anyone.” Tom, past VPA

VPA Celebration 2012


Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale

Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale helps people and organisations make changes in order to create better neighbourhoods, to build skills and job prospects, and to live and work in a greener way. Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale is an independent registered charity with 30 years of experience working with partners to deliver successful projects in the Oldham and Rochdale area. Find out more about Groundwork’s services and opportunities in the local area at or call 0161 624 1444. GroundworkOldhamRochdale @GroundworkOR

VPA Celebration 2012 booklet  

An information booklet presented to attendees at the VPA Celebration event hosted by Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale.

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