Since becoming the Canal & River Trust in July 2012, volunteering has been an increasing part of building the capacity of the team, supplementing what we can achieve with limited resources. We’re a technical team providing detailed advice to various parts of the business, so work with technically-skilled volunteers.
One volunteer, John, a retired teacher and boat owner, has worked on a data transfer project since 2013, helping us to migrate data out of a defunct database system into our modern bespoke database designed and built by our sister SCADA team and used across the business.
John has provided invaluable expertise on database design and creating complex macros for processing data, and his input has been vital in enabling us to progress this complex project, also providing training and technical support to both staff and volunteers working on the project.
It’s very important for us that it’s a two-way process: not only do we benefit from increasing capacity and capability, but the volunteers develop their CV, or in John’s case feel involved and keep his hand in after retiring. John comments that he has felt welcomed, valued, supported and treated as a member of the team. He has increased his knowledge of Visual Basic coding, and as a boat owner gained a better understanding of how the network is kept running. He’s made good friends and particularly liked refreshing his teaching skills whilst delivering the training sessions and supporting colleagues when they had difficulties.
Mark, another volunteer also had time to spare whilst working part time in the oil and gas industry. He started volunteering for the SCADA team designing the user interface web pages for our SCADA network monitoring system.
Overhearing the work of the water management team, Mark was soon helping us build water resources models as part of our long term water resources strategy. This work firstly involves assessing the information available on water control structures, filling in any gaps with site work, and then building a water resources model to help us predict the long term behaviour of our system.
Mark felt he was part of the team which was nice to know. Having now moved on to a new job in the water industry at a consultancy firm, he’s grateful for the experience he gained within the team, which he is sure helped him move on to his next step. We know ourselves the value of this, with three members of staff being previous volunteers.
Managing the team’s volunteer input is a privilege, and it’s massively rewarding to see both our team output enhanced but also providing training and enhancing the skills of the very kind people who offer their time, expertise and enthusiasm for free. It really does enrich what we do and how we do it. With some new volunteers joining the team soon, we hope to have as much success going forward.
The water management team spend their days making sure that we have just the right amount of water in our canals. Here they share some of the highlights of their work with us.See more blogs from this author