On 19 July, 16 graduates from Aspire, Apps and Core Services gave up their weekend to develop their leadership skills, while creating a bushcraft area at one of Action4Youth’s Outdoor Education and Residential Centres near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. Over two of the hottest days of the summer, the graduates created an area where children can discover nature, observe wildlife at close quarters and learn how to make a den and build a campfire. This was the ninth year that Raleigh International, the youth development charity, has partnered with our graduates for a volunteering weekend.
Raleigh International first partnered with us nine years ago. As Graduate Programme Manager John Gillard explains, "since then graduates have delivered over 6,000 volunteer hours, while developing their leadership skills. Raleigh International is always keen to select local community projects that will make an immediate and sustained impact."
With Raleigh International, we have run bi-annual leadership weekend events for our graduates with the aim of developing peer group relationships, enhancing development training and creating learning opportunities. The events also generate valuable feedback, which can be translated back to the workplace to help project partners complete much-needed and worthwhile projects and to develop our Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
The goal for this particular weekend’s activities was to convert an area of unused woodland into an outdoor classroom and bushcraft area. This was to be used by children and young people at the Outdoor Education and residential centre. To do this involved excavating an area of woodland roughly 40 meters square, making a base for a pizza oven, creating a fire pit, with surrounding benches, digging and positioning some whittling posts and constructing a learning centre, with benches clustered together and covered by tarpaulin. In addition to the 16 graduates involved, Operation Raleigh provided three experienced representatives. John Gillard was also there to offer advice and guidance.
Raymond Williams and Ben Peart, both General Management Graduates in Core Services, were among those who took part. They give us their insights into the weekend’s activities.
Talent UK: How was the experience?
Ben Peart: It was an enjoyable weekend, though very tiring. Day One was spent clearing the woodland. Day Two was spent doing the majority of the work. This involved digging about 28 holes, cutting the wood for the benches, creating the fire pit area and the base for the pizza oven. This was the most awkward part – using some railway sleepers which were cut and piled into a tower frame then put on a bed of sand, with some fire bricks in a grid inside. Day Three was spent finishing off the work; sanding and varnishing the benches, filling in holes with quick-setting concrete and making the area look a little rustic rather than brand new.
Raymond Williams: We stayed at Milton Keynes Youth Hostel in Bradwell, a couple of miles down the road from the centre. After the day’s work in the woodland, we retreated to the hostel, where our evenings were spent cooking and cleaning (the two teams took turns), relaxing and networking with the other graduates as well as having an hour-long session with the Raleigh International facilitators to review and reflect on the learnings from the day, the different leadership styles and models and to look ahead to the next day.
Talent UK: What challenges did you face?
Ben: Being outside all day, doing manual work in the hot, muggy weather was pretty challenging!
Raymond: On Saturday morning the energy level of the group was quite low as there was a lot of work in front of us. It took until lunchtime for this lethargy to wear off, and in the second half of the day productivity soared.
Talent UK: What did you learn from the experience?
Ben: Elements of leadership skills. Eight of the graduates volunteered to take leadership slots. This involved assuming a leadership role to organise, give an overview and provide direction to their team. The various styles were then reviewed in the evening with the Operation Raleigh Leaders. On top of this I learnt some technical skills required for the manual work.
Raymond: On Sunday, I assumed the role of leader for my team. There was a lot of pressure of where your focal point should be: something you don’t get day-to-day in the office. There were no preconceptions: you are put into a leadership role, you have to manage the team, take charge and the buck stops with you! It has also taught me to be careful with what I say: when you are leader, everyone looks to you for direction.
Talent UK: What was the end result?
Raymond: When we left on Sunday afternoon, we’d completed all projects set, with the exception of constructing the top on the pizza oven and putting up the tarpaulin: the materials had been treated to withstand various weather conditions and had to be left to dry.
Commenting later, Ian McLaughlin from Operation Raleigh said, "it was a good weekend. We’ve worked with Capgemini coming up to nine years, and consistently, the graduates have always been at a really high standard. I think they represent the company really well, and the quality of the finish has impressed the centre manager here! He had expectations and he said they exceeded them, so that’s great!"
Congratulations to everyone involved!
Written by Marketing Graduate, Core Services, Laura Clarke