Businesses backing youth volunteering help boost the employability of tomorrow’s workforce

Corporate backed volunteering, where businesses support young people to deliver social action projects, boosts local communities and helps to break down the barriers between young people and employers.  These are the key findings of new research published today by the CIPD, ahead of a major national push on youth social action to be announced on Thursday. The report, ‘Youth social action and transitions into work: what role for employers?’, is being launched alongside a CIPD developed employment guide for young people, based on feedback from recruiters.

With nearly one in five young people out of work, evidence highlighted by the CIPD shows that one of the main barriers that young people face when seeking employment is a lack of prior work experience and insight into the world of work. Volunteering projects supported by businesses such as those involving Telefónica UK, EDF Energy and The Co-Operative Group, all featured in today’s report; tackle these barriers by bringing young people and business together in a mutually beneficial partnership. The research identified a number of social, employee and organisational benefits to be gained via the schemes, including:

  • Youth social action programmes are a good opportunity for employees to develop their leadership and people management skills and better understand how to relate to the next generation. They are also seen to increase employees’ motivation and long term commitment to the organisation.
  • A positive impact on the company brand. Almost 50 per cent of new recruits to EDF Energy cite the company’s work in the community as a factor in choosing to work for the organisation.
  • The young volunteers gain confidence and develop capabilities that will serve them well in the workplace, such as teamwork and project management skills. They become ‘well-rounded’ individuals who are more employable and switched on to the issues facing their local communities.
  • The schemes help to shift restrictive and damaging stereotypes of young people. 97 per cent of adults engaged in the Co-Operative Truth about Youth programme agreed that their experience of working with young people had challenged their perceptions of them.

Previous research conducted as part of the CIPD Learning to Work programme found that many young people struggle to communicate their skills and experience to employers in the right way, which is hindering them during the recruitment process*.  The ‘Employment, top tips & guidance from the people who recruit’ guide, advises young people on how volunteering can give them vital work experience and features information on how to effectively articulate the skills they have gained during the application and interview process.

Speaking at the launch, Susannah Clements, CIPD Deputy Chief Executive, said: “Youth unemployment continues to be a major problem, employers worry about skills shortages and talent pipelines, and community projects are crying out for greater local participation. Alongside this, young people tell us that they struggle to get the first vital piece of work experience. We’re proud of the organisations joining us to break the no experience/no job cycle for young people. Through their support for volunteering initiatives they are providing essential workplace skills that organisations cite as lacking in today’s young people. We urge other businesses to follow their example and reap the rewards – for their own organisation, the community and society at large.”

Also commenting, Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO, CBE, Co-Founder of the Step Up To Serve campaign, said: “I am so delighted that the CIPD is highlighting so clearly the benefits for us all when employers commit to empowering young people to take an active part in society through engaging in high quality social action. Evidence shows that this is a double benefit – both for business in society and for the young people themselves. However our challenge is to embed social action within HR practices, which is why I am very pleased to see the CIPD taking a lead on this, working with its 130,000 members to increase the quality and quantity of social action programmes delivered.”

Ann Pickering, Director of Human Resources at Telefónica UK, said: “We believe that getting involved in youth social action is the right thing for the business, the right thing for society and the right thing for young people. Through our Think Big programme, our aim is to help give one million young people skills for life, by helping young people drive change in communities and gain valuable work skills and opportunities. The project has become an integral part of our organisation, providing employees with an opportunity to develop their management skills while giving them another reason to be proud to work at O2.”

* Employers are from Mars, young people are from Venus: Addressing the young people/jobs mismatch, April 2013,1ZTM4,44H6K8,76AHL,1

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