Our next staff focus from the Community Learning and Development team at Orkney Islands Council, is from Richard Smith, CLD Team Leader.
When he was 16, Richard was part of a development programme with the Prince’s Trust, which sparked an interest in working in a similar role when he was older. He developed a love for music and went to Perth College to study Sound Production. Struggling to find a job in the music industry, he began working in sales and then applied for a volunteering opportunity in South Africa, volunteering at an orphanage for children affected by HIV, abuse and neglect. Another volunteering opportunity in India led to Richard studying Community Development at university. Richard then worked for colleges and his local council developing programmes for young people before moving to Orkney for his current role.
Can you describe a typical day in your job?
Some days I can be in an office, and some days I can be getting a boat early in the morning to go to one of the Islands. I will usually have a list of tasks for the day which can be a mixture of contacting partners and young people to arrange one-to-ones and programme activities to help young people to build confidence, problem solving, time keeping and employability skills. Sometimes I can be delivering session on how our mind works, how to set goals and how to keep motivated, other times I can be out doing an outdoor activity such as bushcraft or some sort of teambuilding activity. This is part of my role that is part of what is called the Young Persons Guarantee.
Other times, I am busy with admin tasks such as going through lots of emails and responding to them. Sometimes I can get a huge number of emails in a week and have to deal with different enquiries.
I am also responsible for communities across Orkney, where I may be supporting a community with funding, constitutions, disputes, risk assessments and re-opening buildings for use with groups, supporting schools and other community activities. This is interesting for me, especially when I go meet the community groups in person and get to learn and understand those communities better.
How did you end up in this role?
I was once part of a development programme when I was 16 with the Prince’s Trust. Since then I had been interested in working in a role where I would get to run these types of programmes myself one day.
However I had no idea as to how to make that happen at that stage, I kind of forgot about it all and started developing an interest in music, and studied at Perth College in Sound Production. I struggled to find a job in the music industry. I started working in sales selling gas and electric contracts, and while doing this I noticed an opportunity to volunteer in South Africa, where I volunteered at an orphanage for children affected by HIV, abuse and neglect. I remember when I found out what the volunteer project would be, I thought to myself I wouldn’t be able to do it, however I went and did it. This experience inspired me to figure out how I could be paid doing something similar. I went back to Scotland and got my old sales job back, at the same time conspiring my next adventure. The Prince’s Trust had sent me an email about going to volunteer in India with Raleigh. So I worked really hard and did some club-night fundraisers and got my legs waxed to raise the money to get out there. In India I was part of a community project rebuilding houses which were affected by monsoon flooding. Also an environmental project where we dug trenches to keep the elephants away from a small village and then an adventure phase where we trekked for 21 days. This was the experience that just made me change my life direction and while in India the project managers mentored me on how I could go about getting paid for doing something similar. They suggested I study Community Development when I got back home, so that is what I did. I took up a job with an organisation who worked with Glasgow street gangs while being at University and then worked for colleges, the local council developing programmes to support young people. Then I applied to work for Orkney Island Council and here I am.
What is the best thing about your job?
Seeing young people improve their lives. Watching them grow in confidence and being proud of their achievements. Travelling to different islands and meeting new people.
What is the worst thing about your job?
Staring at a computer screen.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
What qualifications do you have?
HND Sound Production
BA Community Development
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
Yes, it’s fast paced and challenging. Plus, you get to do lots fun and interesting things all at the same time.
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