High Youth Unemployment – Is the sector ready to help…and gain?

The statistics ever-present in the news in recent weeks show that youth unemployment is higher than it’s ever been and that if we’re not careful it could destroy a generation of the nation’s young people[1]. This is very worrying indeed, if not entirely unexpected, but it has interesting potential connotations for the charity sector. Is it an opportunity? I think that depends on whether we’re ready to help and in doing so capitalise on this potential extra resource.

The charity sector is notoriously difficult to break into if you want to change career or even enter at ground level. The sector offers nearly 800,000[2] jobs and over one in fifty of us in the UK work in the sector, but experience is everything if you want to break in even as a volunteer.

Young people, from school leavers to graduates are looking for opportunities to volunteer. These young people may be highly principled and very interested in your charity’s cause but that may not count for everything. Given the economic situation, many may be forcibly constrained to work for a charity that will both:

  1. Give them a chance in light of what is often fairly limited experience due to their youth
  2. Give them the opportunity to genuinely develop skills and experience that will set them apart in an ever more competitive market for employment. Better yet you might be able to offer them full-time employment following their period of volunteer work or internship.

In short, the unemployed young people out there may want to help but they can’t always be as selfless in their volunteering as they or you might like[3]. The question to my mind, is whether the sector is ready with structured and open opportunities that will attract this great economic resource to your charity, and better yet keep as much of it as possible within the sector? This pot of potential volunteering and employment talent has never been bigger but your charity needs to decide how best to access it successfully. Your mission statement and commitment may not be enough on its own as it may once have been.

At Connect Assist, though we’re a social enterprise not a charity we’re doing our bit as always by creating jobs in the South Wales Valleys, which is one of the areas of the UK hardest hit by youth unemployment[4]. We’re creating jobs at a quicker rate than most in Wales and are working closely with Jobs Growth Wales to give paid opportunities to unemployed people between 16 and 24 years of age. We relish the chance to give young people the skills and experience to make them employable long-term either here with us or elsewhere in the labour market. Some local authorities are catching on to the opportunity and beginning to look for opportunities to work with the voluntary sector to start to remedy the situation, Birmingham City Council for one has engaged in talks with ACEVO[5].  I hope that other local authorities and charities are quick enough to turn this challenge to the nation into an opportunity for the sector and for the young people of the UK who are struggling through no fault of their own.


[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nick-clegg/9415973/Youth-unemployment-is-destroying-a-generation.html

[2] http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/bulletin/third_sector_daily_bulletin/article/1145091/number-paid-employees-voluntary-sector-risen-20000/?DCMP=EMC-CONThirdSectorDaily

[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/voluntary-sector-network/2012/jun/07/unemployment-charities-volunteering

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2011/nov/16/youth-unemployment-map

[5] http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/Policy_and_Politics/article/1144921/birmingham-city-council-asks-acevo-advise-youth-unemployment/

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