The Value of Engaging Students in Volunteering – Gary from

August 4, 2023

Madison Bryant, Communiteer

engaging students in volunteering gary allen

At Communiteer, we aim to kickstart for students the lifelong journey of giving back. The fresh perspective, innovative ideas, and boundless enthusiasm that students bring to the table can truly invigorate the Australian volunteer pool. This is why we sat down with Gary Allen, CEO of to demonstrate the organisational point of view in engaging students in volunteering.

Coordinated and delivered nationally by Volunteering Queensland since 2013, National Student Volunteer Week 2023 is a time to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of student volunteers. It is also an opportunity to support other Volunteer-Involving-Organisations discover how student volunteers can bring value to their operations.

Watch Gary Allen’s interview below on student volunteering!

Let’s start with an overview of the story of and what they trying to do in the community! is a virtual business incubator for Australians with disability and not-for-profit disability services. We are a non-registered NDIS provider, which means that folk with a self-managed NDIS plan, can potentially support them. We will be at some point seeking an NDIS registration. But about 84% of NDIS plans are either plan-managed or self-managed anyway, so we’re not panicking.

How are you engaging students in volunteering currently?

Shoba is the student that’s working with us and we’re absolutely delighted to have her on the team. What we’re doing at the moment is just sort of polishing out to be the strongest service we can be.

The connection to a student just meant that we could bring in that sort of academic, technical knowledge. My day job is at a university, so I’m quite enthusiastic about the idea of having students doing some activities with us.

It’s the kind of work I theoretically could do. But I’ve got so much on my plate at the moment, I think my family and the rest of the team would probably do an intervention if I tried to do it myself.

It’s just lovely to have somebody that we can trust, that’s enthusiastic about us, that wants to be involved.

Gary Allen, CEO of

We just can’t say loudly enough just how great the Communiteer platform is in terms of putting social enterprises in touch with students and volunteers who want to make a contribution. It really makes a difference for a fledgling social enterprise. You don’t have a lot of money. So having that sort of volunteer just really makes a huge difference.

Why do you think it’s important for young people, in particular, to get involved in volunteering in their communities?

It enables students to round out their resumes and their skill sets. That sort of applied learning and taking what they’ve learned in the lecture theatre to apply in the Australian social enterprise space makes good sense.

It’s not just doing good. It’s doing good that actually does you good, career-wise, as well. From an academic point of view, you want to give students a well-rounded as possible set of experiences that they can apply.

Gary Allen, CEO of

What unique value does engaging students bring to volunteering?

There are lots of people that have got valuable experience and knowledge that want to share it. It’s not always easy to connect, willing volunteers with folk that could benefit from it, which is obviously why the Communiteer platform is just so amazing. It’s so those sorts of tasks we could do if we’ve, if we had the time, and we just genuinely don’t have the time. So, we can certainly supervise a volunteer during that work. Shobha has been nothing but enthusiastic about everything we’ve asked her to do.

How do you see the role of technology in being able to work remotely, flexibly and accessibly?

You don’t often get to hear this, but one of the good things that the pandemic did was it demonstrated that remote work works. It demonstrated that gig-based typing engagements do work, and so somebody like Shoba that we can give her tasks and we check in how she’s going, absolutely is something that works for us.

It’s probably timely that there’s a sort of interstate connection. What it does mean is that she does bring in a local perspective that we wouldn’t necessarily otherwise have. I only look at that as an advantage rather than as a challenge.

Working within the disability space, do you think technology can enable more people to get involved in their communities and be active when some can’t necessarily travel as easily?

It’s something I feel very strongly about from a disability perspective, in terms of engaging with the workforce and society. For some people, it will be impossible without technology. Providing that kind of flexibility in connection might be the only way we can get those people involved.

Gary Allen, CEO of

And, you know, given the percentage of Australians with a disability, depending on your category, maybe about one in 15 people live with a disability. Australia can’t afford to not have those people connected, productive and engaged. And so what is about is helping people in those circumstances and making that connection.

For the last 30 years, there’s been a succession of the Australian Government’s trying to increase the rate of disability workforce engagement. So currently, it’s a little bit more than half the level of non-disabled workforce engagement. So that 30 years, the Australian Government have spent about a billion dollars, and their efforts have only improved it by 8% for $30 million. Not a good return. So part of what we say is enabling somebody to do remote work and set up something on a group basis is the way to increase that engagement. So Communiteer sits very nicely with how we are approached work and what we do.

How can students and other volunteers support at the moment?

We’re looking for anybody that’s got a business background, willing to or interested in doing some mentoring for 90 minutes a month. There are 1.9 million Australians of working age with a disability.

With marketing still, we’re looking for somebody that’s great on social media, to help us recruit and someone to help us manage our website resource library. We’ve got a resource library where we post resources on our website every day. Somebody with a social work or a psychology background that might be able to give us occasional advice would be fantastic as well.

Any final comments?

As I said before, I can’t speak more highly of Communiteer here. There are there is a vibrant Social Sector out there in Australia. And so I think that there are plenty of places where people could volunteer. And plenty of social enterprises can benefit from volunteering. So the work that Communiteer is doing is just so so needed.

To learn more about our student volunteering programs, get in touch!

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