Volunteering: the answer to youth unemployment?
27 June 2014
The Daily Telegraph: Volunteering: the answer to youth unemployment? 4th June 2014
Q: How does Zak, a bright 17-year-old from Hackney, get on the jobs’ ladder? He can’t find work because he lacks experience. He is unable to gain experience because he cannot find work. A: Zak should join a rapidly expanding social network called Team London. It is the Mayor of London’s volunteering programme, turbocharged by the London 2012 Games. It is not about volunteering simply because it is a good thing to do, but because we believe that volunteering can be the route to work that our young people need. In January, when Boris Johnson launched the Telegraph’s Lend a Hand campaign, he got everyone thinking. With close to 20 per cent of 16- 24-year-olds unemployed, and estimates that the cost to society of Britain’s unemployment problem is more than £22 billion a year, this is a particular problem that, as taxpayers, businesses and parents, we all need to face. The jobs are out there. But how we do prepare our young people for those opportunities? Business has a key role to play. The majority of businesses report recruitment difficulties. Apprenticeship schemes face a challenge to find a pipeline of under-19s with the skills to take up the opportunities. The message I hear when I speak to business leaders is that the problem is not simply a matter of literacy or numeracy, but “work-readiness” which our young people lack, the basics in confidence, communication, leadership and teamwork. This means that not only do they find it difficult to get a job, but once they have found one they often struggle to succeed. Related Articles We must get under the skin of this issue and, as the school leaving age rises to 18, equip our young people while they are still at school to compete. Over the last year, my team has been working with The Challenge charity and communications experts AGL to develop a programme, HeadStart London, which does just that. We have offered 16-18-year-olds employability workshops, communications coaching and a guaranteed interview for part-time or seasonal work – once they have given 16 hours of their time to volunteer in their community. Why that stipulation? The volunteering ensures they develop key skills such as teamwork, leadership, self-discipline and confidence. As a result of their experience at the assessment day, Starbucks offered 11 of 13 young people a job, having originally committed to 1 in 10. New Look said that those who had the most volunteering experience were those who were most work-ready. To mark the 30th anniversary of National Volunteers’ Week on Tuesday, the Mayor will introduce HeadStart and our new collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development. With Peter Cheese, its chief executive, Boris Johnson will launch the CIPD Steps Ahead mentoring programme in London. HR professionals are giving their time to mentor job seekers aged 18-24. They will support them with the basics – job search, interview skills, how to write a CV. Pilots in other areas of the country have shown that 73 per cent of people have found employment, because a professional gave their time to support them. Some people think that volunteering is “not for me”, that it is not “cool”. But think back to the 2012 Games. There we saw the Games Makers and London Ambassador volunteers give us all a lesson in smiling. That is now being replicated by groups of people, of all ages and backgrounds, right across London. They are loving the networking, the friendships they are making. And yes, they are loving the fact that they are not stuck in front of their computer screens but are out and about with the young people who are our future. Whether they are planting trees, helping at big sports events, or in a food bank, they are playing a part in shaping tomorrow’s workforce. Wouldn’t we all like Zak and his friends to be part of that – and enable them each to find a job in which they can flourish? Businesses who would like to attend the HeadStart event can register atvolunteerteam.london.gov.uk *Volunteers’ Week runs from June 1-7.