Please find below a blog post written by one of the volunteers in Computer Aid’s workshop. He talks descriptively and in detail about the variety of roles a Computer Aid workshop volunteer undertakes on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, he goes over the atmosphere in the workshop and the benefits of working for Computer Aid to a volunteer.
I volunteered in the workshop because I have more than twenty years of experience in ICT and wanted to do something to support Computer Aid. However, you do not need to be experienced in IT to volunteer to work in the workshop at Computer Aid because you will be fully trained by experienced staff and you will be shown exactly what you need to do to test and standardize each PC.
If you are interested in computer hardware it is a very useful experience since no matter how many computers you may have worked on before it is unlikely that you will encounter the variety of makes and models that go through the workshop anywhere else.
You will be asked to standardize the settings of the BIOS on desktop PCs. It is inevitable that you will have to upgrade the RAM on many of them. In some cases you will need to replace hard drives. Occasionally you will need to replace power supplies. It is not unusual for DVD drives to be faulty and those will need to be replaced too.
It is unusual to work on the same make and model throughout the same day. On most days you will refurbish several different models. If it is the same model it might be possible to refurbish as many as twenty PCs in one day.
It is unlikely that you will be asked to replace a processor since processors will only be upgraded en-masse i.e. not one desktop at a time. You will never be asked to do any soldering. If a capacitor is past its best then the base unit will be recycled and not reused.
You may be asked to work in the data wiping part of the workshop to data wipe hard drives. You may also be asked to install operating systems when computers are prepared for shipment.
If it is recognized that you are proficient at refurbishing PCs you will be asked to refurbish laptops. Working on the laptops is much more time-consuming and much more challenging.
The workshop is managed by full-time staff responsible for your safety and for the smooth-running of the workshop.
There are a wide range of people who volunteer to work in the workshops. Some have been working in the workshop on a part-time basis for many years. It is expected that each volunteer does at least two days per week. Many students volunteer during their summer holidays including many foreign students who visit the UK during their holidays. There is almost always somebody in the workshop who can speak Spanish and it is not unusual to hear more than one foreign language being spoken. Some of the volunteers have IT careers who decide to volunteer some of their time in the workshop.
Computer Aid can provide work-experience certificates for those who need them. Work experience at Computer Aid can be used to enhance your CV and Computer Aid staff are happy to support volunteers as referees when needed for job applications. If you are planning to have a career in IT, investing some time as a volunteer at Computer Aid will pay dividends.
All-in-all, volunteering at Computer Aid has been a fantastic experience and I look forward to continuing that experience into the future.