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How can student volunteering get you a place on a graduate scheme?

Posted on 24 Nov 2015

I graduated from Warwick University in 2014 after three years of volunteering for St John Ambulance alongside my studies. I now work for Barclays in Technology having just completed their Investment Bank graduate scheme. The skills I developed as a student volunteer with St John Ambulance no doubt helped me secure a place on my graduate scheme.


Communication is key to employers. Often graduate schemes will be focused on making an individual a future leader and therefore they must excel in communication skills.

Individuals must be able to communicate with various types of people and match their communication style with the audience. A student volunteer with St John Ambulance would have started to build up these skills while providing first aid to patients. Whether that is persuading an intoxicated patient at Creamfields that they need treatment, giving head injury advice to someone who doesn’t speak English or training a group of strangers in essential first aid.


Teamwork is essential in any organisation no matter what level you work at. To have a successful career you must be able to get on and work with others, whether you lead or work in a team.

Working successfully within a team shows that you are personable and can work with many different types of people, teamwork is essential when giving first aid, you can’t carry someone with a broken leg off of a football pitch on your own!


Loyalty is important to employers, especially if you are applying to join a graduate scheme. Employers will invest a large amount of time and money in you and they want to be reassured that you will be loyal enough to stay with them. If you have voluntarily given your time each week to help others, that’s a great way to prove your sticking power.


Employers want to know your motivation for wanting to work for their company, so ensure you make it clear in an interview why you are so keen.

A student volunteer with St John Ambulance will have already shown that they are a highly motivated individual. Giving up their time to do something which isn’t paid and helps others requires high motivation and passion.


As previously stated, most graduate schemes look to recruit their future leaders. And for employers, being able to lead a team is a highly desirable skill.

Leading a team links with communication and teamwork and, if done well, can make you highly successful. St John Ambulance give students many opportunities to develop their leadership skills, to name just a few they could be the president of their society, manage first aid provision at a large event or become a youth leader.

Working under pressure

It is likely that at some point in your career you will be under pressure to deliver a task to a deadline or standard. The ability to deal with this pressure and to deliver results of a high standard on time is essential to a successful career.

As a St John Ambulance volunteer, you will often be under pressure to make quick decisions when treating a casualty. You can’t be put under any more pressure than making a decision that could literally be the difference between a life lost and a life saved. This experience of a pressured environment will allow you to build the skills to cope and to show your prospective employer that you won’t crumble when the going gets tough.

If you want to find out more about becoming a student volunteer with St John Ambulance, email Student-Volunteering@sja.org.uk.

Richard Salter

Richard Salter is the National Student Volunteering Officer for St John Ambulance, and currently works full-time for Barclays in Technology.

Categories: Advice