How did you first hear about NCS The Challenge?
I heard about NCS The Challenge initially in 2009. I was working with youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, and NCS The Challenge was one of the partners. My first encounter with NCS came when a team of young people taking part were in Brunel University raising money for their community project.
They were working to support Centrepoint and raised about £1,000 to work with young homeless people and finding ways to find their voice. It was striking to me that the young people came from a diverse range of backgrounds to make a positive difference in their community.
What attracted you to The Challenge's seasonal roles?
At the time, I was looking for a summer job that would enable me to continue to work with young people. Other options such as Camp America just weren't feasible for me, and I was impressed by what I saw of NCS The Challenge at Centrepoint and the work that the team of young people did - so it was an obvious choice!
Most importantly, NCS also gives the seasonal staff members the opportunity to develop their own skills while enabling them to make an impact on the lives of a group of young people and their local communities.
I applied for the Team Mentor role first. I was responsible for keeping the team motivated, encouraging everyone to bond and maintaining the right level of energy. I often found myself asking the young people, "This is your summer, what do you want to get out of it?" This got them to think at a deeper level about the programme, helping them stay energised - which in turn gave me the energy to motivate them further!
What didn't you know about NCS The Challenge before working there?
Only once you are here can you appreciate the organisation's commitment to inclusivity and ensuring that steps are put in place to meet any reasonable adjustments that a staff member may need.
The Challenge is great for implementing "wellness action plans" for mental health needs through its Health, Welfare & Disability service. The same is done throughout the recruitment process too.
How many roles have you done with NCS?
After my mentor role I progressed to Programme Leader, where I was managing the programme for up to 84 young people and a team of seasonal staff. I then moved on to working in the head office as an Assistant Programme Manager (now called Social Action Manager), where I was responsible for setting up and managing multiple NCS programmes. Not many other organisations would offer you this level of career progression. I've been able to build my career here!
What have been some of the challenges of working at The Challenge?
This is not an easy job - it's called The Challenge for a reason. The programme is challenging not just for young people who are being pushed out of their comfort zone, but also for the staff members who work with them.
However, the rewards are so great that it's worth everything you go through. You have to recognise that as a staff member you are experiencing your own personal journey - there will be highs and lows but it's what you do going forward that matters.
What is great about The Challenge is that it puts your wellbeing first. It's not your typical 9-5 office job. There is flexibility, a great team spirit where you get to interact with other departments and a reliable support system.
What advice would you give to someone looking to work at The Challenge?
You need to be willing to take the initiative and be proactive. However, it is a great place to work, and many roles here can be very rewarding. You really get the opportunity to build invaluable skills - I developed my resilience, communication and management skills. In other words, it's a great place to start your career!
Applications to work on The Challenge's 2019 NCS programmes are now open! Find out more about their paid, flexible seasonal roles at ncs.the-challenge.org/jobs.