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A gateway to work? Volunteering as a route to employment

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  1. A gateway to work? Volunteering as a route to employment Nick Ockenden 09.09.09

  2. Introduction • Why now? • IVR research: A Gateway to Work (2009) • Current work on the employability agenda • The link between volunteering and employability • Principles of good practice • Conclusions

  3. Why now? • The recession and rising unemployment • An opportunity or a threat for the third sector? • Government-interest • DWP Volunteer Brokerage Scheme • Career-related benefits as a motivator for volunteers • Helping Out (2007) A national survey of volunteering and charitable giving

  4. A Gateway to Work • To explore the link between volunteering and employability, specifically in relation to the work being done in this area by Volunteer Centres • Funded by Capacity Builders • Eight ‘good practice’ Volunteer Centres as case studies • Interviews with staff from Volunteer Centres, employment agencies and host organisations • Focus groups with volunteers • Telephone survey of 220 Volunteer Centres

  5. The work of Volunteer Centres • Numerous Volunteer Centres doing work in this area • 63% had carried out work around volunteering and employability (up from 37% in March 2009) • 76% said interest from volunteers in this area was ‘high’ or ‘very high’ • Core partner was Jobcentre Plus (63% of cases) • Variety of support provided • Brokerage as the main role • Ongoing support • Majority felt that their work had been successful

  6. The link between volunteeringand employability

  7. The evidence for… • As a direct route to employment • Especially amongst job seekers • Benefits most pronounced in full-time volunteering • Improving someone’s employability • Gaining new skills (‘hard’ and ‘soft’) • Key motivator for volunteers (61% to gain new skills) • As an alternative to employment • For people unable to work (e.g. positive benefit on mental and physical health, reduces social isolation)

  8. …and against • The link to employment can be unclear • Hard to isolate the role / impact of volunteering • Impact rarely seen quickly (e.g. long-term strategy) • Soft outcomes not immediately obvious • Unemployed people volunteer less • Barriers to participation (e.g. real and perceived impact on benefits; out-of-pocket expenses; lack of information; lack of transport)

  9. Principles of good practice

  10. Protecting the organisational remit • The challenge… • Being pushed into new areas of work – ‘mission drift’ • Risk of being seen as catering to one part of the community • Risk of delivering government employability agendas • Ensure it complements the core mission (e.g. the six core functions of Volunteer Centres)

  11. Recording soft outcomes • The challenge… • Funders / contractors may have an instrumental, target-driven view • Can force organisations to focus on rapidly moving people into jobs (cherry-picking) • Can be difficult to record ‘hard’ outcomes • Recognise ‘soft’ outcomes • Recognise the wider, holistic benefits to volunteering (e.g. non employability-related)

  12. Good dialogue and relationships • The challenge… • Evidence of some dismissive attitudes towards volunteering • Some jobseekers ‘told’ to volunteer • Good relationships evident and possible • Effective and sustained communication with frontline staff • Ensure a positive message about volunteering ‘Don’t ever sell yourself short. Don’t ever think that volunteering is demeaning or second-best.’ • Ensure understanding of the principles of volunteering (e.g. freewill and unpaid)

  13. Ongoing and comprehensive support • The challenge… • Job seekers often have multiple and complex support needs • Many are not ‘job ready’ • Comprehensive support frequently seen • Volunteering as a flexible and supportive environment • Tailored to the individual • Part of a long-term strategy

  14. Conclusions • Volunteering can help someone progress towards employment – becoming ‘job ready’ • The flexibility and support to volunteering is a key strength • Key challenges for many volunteer-involving organisations – asked to do more for less • Volunteering should not become the servant of government agendas • Need to recognise the wider, holistic benefits to involvement

  15. ‘A Gateway to Work. The role of Volunteer Centres in supporting the link between volunteering and employability’ • Rochester, C. (2009) IVR: London • Download free PDF from www.ivr.org.uk • Nick Ockenden • nick.ockenden@volunteeringengland.org • 0207 5208 931

  16. Discussion • Why have you, or why have you not, worked on projects around volunteering and employability? • What do you see as the benefits of volunteering to someone’s employability? • What has been your experience of engaging in projects around volunteering and employability? • successes / benefits • challenges / drawbacks • How does work around employability relate to your wider work on volunteering?