A CHARITY which employs more than 220 people is growing its team as York reopens.

YUSU, the University of York Students’ Union, runs events and venues to support student life, such as the annual Roses sports event and The Glasshouse venue on Campus East.

With an annual turnover of more than £5m, YUSU’s expanding team is now working on its Covid recovery and is keen to highlight the importance of charities within York’s business scene and community.

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The Lakeside Tap at the University of York

Ben Vulliamy, chief executive, said their employees include students who need to subsidise the cost of study and a team of full-time, professional career staff.

He said the pandemic had radically changed their operations but they had used the furlough scheme to protect jobs. Ben said they had not had to make any redundancies, despite the impact of restrictions on their income from venues and events, and the costs incurred from adjusting their buildings, investing in technology and spending more on student support.

One of the ways YUSU adapted was to create new Covid-secure outdoor social settings, such as The Forest, a purpose-built outdoor space on campus which has hosted student groups, volunteering projects and welcome events, and The Lakeside Tap, which opened this Easter and has a large screen showing live sport and student-made broadcasts.

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YUSU has also expanded its student advice service, run online activities, delivered treats to locked down students, supported Covid volunteering, fundraised for hardship funds and moved events online.

Ben said they had brought back furloughed staff and were also now recruiting, reflecting YUSU’s confidence and optimism as an employer in York. YUSU has also joined the Kickstart scheme to create work placements for young people.

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The Forest, before it opened at the University of York

“We believe a key part of our successful recovery and confidence for the future comes from our organisational structure that sees around 80 per cent of our workforce as current students. Eight of our 11 trustee board are current York students or young people who have just graduated at York, including Patrick O’Donnell, who has been elected as union president and the chair of our trustee board.

“With a young workforce and governance structure, led by students and for students, we have a good understanding of our members and community needs and expectations, a youthful dynamism and we have become very motivated and driven by change.”

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The Kitchen at Alcuin, a grab and go venture by YUSU

YUSU president Patrick said: “Our students have had a really difficult year with tuition fee debt for learning that has been almost exclusively online and paying rent for property they have spent some of the time locked into and some of the time locked out of.

“It was really important to us at YUSU to adapt and change to find ways of supporting students to socialise safely and to be protected from some of the hardship of the current environment.

“One of the ways we felt we could support our students was finding creative ways to allow them to safely make friends and tackle isolation together. These venues, along with our student support, student representation and student advice work, try to help our students stay safe and stay well.”

Key events run by YUSU over the past year include:

• Roses - a sports event for students from York to compete against students from Lancaster in more than 50 sports with the sport broadcast into ‘fan zones’ by 50 student media volunteers. The event raised funds for York Mind in recognition of the mental health pressures people have faced during the pandemic.

• Clubs and societies fair - a showcase of student activities hosted in October 2020 when students shared their key interests and invited others to sign up to their more than 220 student societies, ranging from arts and dance to darts.

• YUSU has screened a range of live football matches in The Lakeside Tap

• Online events (for periods of lockdown and / or for students who are shielding) have included online quizzes, comedy performances, DJ’s and online courses in budgeting, sign language, first aid and well-being.