When was the last time you volunteered to do something meaningful which would support your career development and possibly even make you happier? As Jonathan Haidt writes in his book The Happiness Hypothesis*, the voluntary activities you undertake make a significant and sustained difference to the level of your happiness.

Joining a school governing body as a volunteer governor or an academy board as a trustee is a fantastic way to develop yourself, gain Non-Executive board experience, and improve educational outcomes in your community.

School governors have three main roles 1) setting the strategy and ethos of the school, 2) holding the head teacher to account for educational outcomes of children, and 3) ensuring financial accountability. In recent years, schools funding has become stretched as costs have risen while funding remains broadly at the same level. Given this context, schools benefit hugely from the experience that business people bring to the governing body, whether your skills lie in Finance, HR, or the legal profession.  It is vital that schools have the right governance to stay focused on delivering for children.

As well as bringing expertise, volunteers also gain skills. Being on a board, appointing the head teacher, approving budgets, and scrutinising performance data for a whole organisation is invaluable experience for your learning now, as well as laying the foundations for Non-Executive Director roles later in your career.

Alastair Cowen (age 26) is an assistant manager in the Public Sector Audit department at KPMG’s office in Birmingham, where he deals with matters concerning funding pressures and governance, in both an internal and external audit role. In his spare time, he volunteers as a governor at James Brindley School in Birmingham.

“Since becoming a governor at James Brindley School, a key focus of mine has been to help the school to compile a risk register – something which is typically carried out at board level to identify the risks to an organisation’s business goals and activities. The school had never had such a document in place before, and I think they found it very helpful to have an accountant scrutinising their budgets. The school was inspected again by Ofsted in January 2017 and achieved a rating of ‘good’.  It was a great sense of achievement for everyone on the school’s leadership team. We felt we had been along the journey together, as a school and as a governing body … At age 26, I’m fairly young to be a governor, but it’s something that I find very rewarding… As well as a personal gain, I also benefit professionally.”

Governors for Schools matches skilled and committed volunteers with schools all over England. Why not improve education in local communities while developing your boardroom skills and finding happiness all at once?

*The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt, 2006.