This #VolunteersWeek: Driving the Fight against Modern Slavery and the Transformation of the Student Ambassador Programme

This week, we are excitedly marking Volunteers Week with a grand rejuvenation of our Student Ambassador Programme. This pioneering programme not only educates and empowers UK university students but also fuels their desire to bring about change and contribute actively to the global effort to abolish modern slavery.

What invaluable insights have we learned from our Student Ambassador Programme?

Our journey with the Student Ambassador Programme began as a pilot in 2020. Since then, it has been an uphill ride, receiving an overwhelming response from students, commendable training courses, and solid alliances with a handful of universities. Our programme has successfully spread its wings from 6 to 10 universities, each boasting dedicated Student Ambassadors, all within the past 12 months.

We’ve discovered that our Student Ambassadors can be not just motivated, but incredibly innovative, coming up with out-of-the-box solutions for their challenges which have resulted in breaking new ground in the fight against modern slavery. Our most engaged ambassadors have made a profound impact and received an astounding wave of positive feedback from those they have collaborated with.

Regrettably, during this period, we’ve witnessed the escalating cost-of-living crisis putting students at heightened risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. Students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, are often caught in precarious situations, becoming easy prey for traffickers, especially for sexual exploitation and drug trafficking. The specter of forced labour is looming over students, with international students particularly vulnerable. For instance, it has been distressingly reported that more than 50 international students have been discovered as victims of modern slavery in North Wales care homes.

Why are we refining the Student Ambassador Programme?

We envisage our Student Ambassador Programme reaching every corner of the UK, thereby having an even more significant impact in combating the world’s fastest-growing crime. However, our existing processes have been demanding a significant portion of staff time. By streamlining our processes and introducing automation into administrative tasks, we expect to provide support to a larger number of Student Ambassadors.

While some of our highly engaged students have taken on incredibly impactful challenges, a whopping 88% of those who signed up for the programme have yet to complete a challenge. We recognise the need for profound changes to enhance the volunteer experience, leading to improved retention and progression. Our recent focus has been on transforming the Student Ambassador experience into a compelling journey for students – more flexible, more supportive, and most importantly, more enjoyable!

We believe we now offer one of the most adaptable volunteering opportunities in the UK, allowing students to juggle their involvement in the Student Ambassador Programme along with their other commitments. Furthermore, they can select challenges that complement their degree, their interests, and the skills they either want to demonstrate or aim to develop.

Lastly, it is crucial, particularly for our partnership-building initiatives, that we can underscore the difference we are making through the programme. By introducing methods that prioritise measuring and maximising the impact of the programme, we’re confident that we’ll soon be able to illustrate just how pivotal the Student Ambassador Programme is in combating modern slavery.

What developments have been implemented so far?

We’ve designed a new system which automates numerous steps that previously required heavy administration. This streamlined approach will expedite processes, enabling students to commence their journey more swiftly while being better guided through the process.

We’re reshaping the programme structure so that students can dive straight into the core training on modern slavery awareness right after completing our Sign-Up Form. Moreover, our Student Ambassadors now enjoy the freedom to complete other parts of the programme in any order and focus on activities that pique their interest.

We’ve added layers of support to assist Student Ambassadors on their journey. This includes a ‘Choose a Challenge Gallery’, where Student Ambassadors can find recommended challenges along with guidance, handy tips, and beneficial resources.

What does the future hold for the Student Ambassador Programme?

This academic year, we plan to extend our reach to an array of universities across the UK, with an ambitious target of at least 250 Student Ambassadors at 25 universities.

We’re designing training around forms of modern slavery that pose a significant risk to students, such as sexual exploitation and county lines drug trafficking. We’ll also be enriching our volunteer experience with more regular communications, volunteer recognition schemes and opportunities for our most engaged Student Ambassadors to dive deeper.

Soon, we’ll be launching a Modern Slavery Prevention Hub for the West Midlands that will provide resources for university staff to safeguard both students and staff from human trafficking as well as purge modern slavery from their supply chains.

Lastly, we have our sights set on global expansion – the USA in January 2024 and preliminary talks about introducing the programme to Mexico.

How are we celebrating Volunteers Week?

Volunteers Week is an excellent occasion to applaud our current student volunteers and spotlight the enhancements we’ve made to enrich the volunteering experience. We’re posting on social media daily this week, celebrating our exceptional volunteers and the power of volunteering to eradicate human trafficking.

We’re also kick-starting our next round of recruitment. Although most students are commencing their summer break and will be away from their university campus, the Student Ambassador Programme welcomes joiners at any point in the year!

To find out more about the It’s a Penalty Student Ambassador Programme, click here.

Written by Matt Humberstone

Student Ambassador Programme Manager