Countryside Jobs Service have helped the RSPB get in contact with amazing volunteers for many years. To mark their 25 year anniversary we asked them to tell us how the volunteering 'landscape' has changed for them in that time...

Amount of Volunteers

CJS, or Countryside Jobs Service, has been running for 25 years this year. Committed to all things countryside, conservation, ecology and wildlife, they have seen a wealth of changes in the sector, reflected in both their content and operation. Before the age of the internet (remember that!?) they were purely a paper publication, but the rise of the world wide web and social media has transformed the way in which content can be displayed, a trend no more apparent than in the Voluntary sector.

What was once mostly confined to local communities via notice boards and posters are now advertised on a much broader scale via CJS. Many more organisations are advertising their voluntary requirements, including some private companies, and some larger, well-known organisations have seen their volunteer requirements increase due in no small part to budget cuts/restrictions leading to increased necessity. Virtually all charities have volunteering roles now, many even hiring dedicated, paid staff – volunteer co-ordinators – to run and manage the volunteers on behalf of the organisation.

 Volunteering Type

It’s not just the increase in numbers of volunteers that has changed, but the types of role too. Administrative roles have seen a large increase as has those requiring some element of Social Media management – a trend no doubt reflective of society as a whole. Environmental Education have increased somewhat, although these can be tempered by time-consuming DBS checks and forms on both the applicant and organisation side. “Odd” jobs have remained popular, things such as tour guides or photographers important throughout the sector and there has been a significant rise in occasional volunteering – roles such as gardeners, handymen or Visitor Centre Welcome Guides.

Volunteer Support

In-role Volunteer support has seen a big change over the years with training packages, Internships and help in transitioning into paid work through the issuing of certificates and qualifications now largely available. However, whilst those looking to gain a start-up into the industry is still important, this has tended to have been overtaken by the number of retired applicants for volunteering roles. The general cost of volunteering, in both monetary and time value, has seen general interest fall slightly in recent times. People simply can’t afford to volunteer as much as they would maybe like, hence the increase of retired applicants who, in general would have more time and saved income on their hands.

Remedy to this, and perhaps a trend moving forward (the term was not even thought of back in ’94!) is that of Microvolunteering. This involves small, citizen-science based tasks that require very small amounts of time and little commitment (think RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch) to complete.

All in all volunteering has changed hugely over our 25 years, it is still one of the best ways to start a life-time career in the countryside sector and today our volunteers, full time, part time and occasional helping hands are all ever more needed and provide vital support.