Young people's employment prospects improved by volunteering

Press Releases

20 Jun 2011

New study explores the unique contribution of volunteering to young people's development

Volunteering helps young people develop the skills and confidence that improve their chances of getting a job, new research by the Institute for Employment Studies shows. The study found that volunteering is particularly successful in helping vulnerable and low-skilled young people to re-engage with learning and in raising their personal and career ambitions.

The 'Volunteering: Supporting transitions' report commissioned by v, The National Young Volunteers Service, found that young people recognise volunteering as a means to improve their employability and to enhance their CV. It also showed that their expectations in relation to these factors are exceeded and that they gain much more from volunteering than they anticipate. Young people reported an improved insight into future careers and an opportunity to earn certificates, complete qualifications and develop valuable networks.

The report reveals a number of key outcomes from volunteering that can help to inform future policy development around young people's education and employment transitions. Becci Newton, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies and one of the report's authors, comments:

‘With the end of the Future Jobs Fund, replaced by relatively short-term work experience programmes, there is a greater need for long term, structured volunteering programmes. These are particularly valuable to the most vulnerable young people who need greater support to develop their skills and capabilities in readiness for education or employment.

‘We've recently seen the government commit resources to improving young people's employment prospects, and this research shows that volunteering should be a vital part of that initiative.

‘Volunteering also helped young people identify goals, recognise their strengths, take ownership and make positive choices for their futures. For those who are NEET, volunteering is hugely valuable in re-building their confidence and self-esteem as well as increasing their skill and qualification levels. It also provides a critical stepping stone into further learning - which is crucial in light of the policy to Raise the Participation Age in education.’

Terry Ryall, v's Chief Executive Officer, comments:

‘With 1 in 5 young people facing unemployment, helping them stay connected to society and develop the leadership and employability skills that will shape their future is one of the most urgent and critical tasks of the next decade.

‘This research demonstrates the powerful role that volunteering can play in enabling young people to develop the confidence, skills and capabilities to make positive and successful transitions to learning and work.

‘v is committed to building on the success of the vtalent year programme, by working with government and business to develop high quality, long-term structured volunteering opportunities. Opportunities which will complement the new Work Programme and plug a significant gap in new provision.’

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Volunteering is successful in engaging young people, helping them to gain qualifications and securing positive progression to further education. Given the policy commitment to raising the participation age to 18 by 2015, structured volunteering placements can provide a critical transition route for young people who are keen to develop their skills and gain qualifications in a non-formal educational setting. Volunteering may also help vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to re-engage with formal learning.
  • Volunteering part-time is valuable to young people involved in higher education since it provides a means to apply their skills in a practical setting, gain career insights and explore different interests.
  • Volunteering helps young people to develop their networks and mix with a more diverse social group. It also increases their ability to work within and across authority structures. This suggests that providing volunteering opportunities to a wide range of young people will help to break-down social barriers and lead to greater community cohesion and personal well-being.
  • Young volunteers make a valuable contribution to communities and increase organisations' capacities, allowing them to offer enhanced services to clients, develop new projects and new approaches to their work. In addition, young volunteers' work within organisations and communities helps to overcome negative stereotypes about the role and contribution of young people in society.


Notes to editor:

Becci Newton, Senior Research Fellow, is available for interviews on the contact details below. Becci's research interests include young people's engagement, learning and development.

For further information or comment, contact Becci Newton or call +44(0)1273 763 441, or the IES Information Manager Lorna Howes on 01273 763414.

About the 'Volunteering: Supporting transitions' report

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the Institute for Employment Studies website.

In Autumn 2010, v, The National Young Volunteers Service, commissioned the Institute for Employment Studies to explore the unique contribution of volunteering to the development of employability skills and attributes, networks and contacts, qualifications and accreditation, and the relief of the negative consequences of unemployment or inactivity.

The research was based on longitudinal, qualitative case study research with a panel of 36 young people. In addition to interviewing young people, detailed discussions were held with all managers (or mentors) involved in supporting young people's activities, as well as a range of stakeholders, including staff from local agencies and youth advice organisations.

About the Institute for Employment Studies

The Institute for Employment Studies is the UK's leading independent centre for research and evidence-based consultancy in employment, labour market and human resource policy and practice. It is apolitical and not-for-profit, its activities being funded through research and consultancy commissions, and from its corporate membership programme. The Institute aims to improve employment policy in the UK and internationally by carrying out authoritative research of practical relevance to policy makers and those responsible for implementing policy programmes and initiatives.

About v, The National Young Volunteers Service

  • v, The National Young Volunteers Service, aims to inspire a new generation of volunteers (aged 14-25) across England.
  • We do this by creating a diverse range of volunteering and social action opportunities to help young people take action to improve lives, communities and the planet.
  • 2011 is the European Year of Volunteering 2011 in the European Union, putting a spotlight on volunteering across Europe to help create a culture of giving time. v has been appointed as an official partner, working with Catch22 to deliver the Children & Young People spotlight theme.
  • See for more information on what we do and how we do it.

Contact: Jaharn Giles, Shine Communications, 020 7841 7072 or