Volunteering for youth employability skills development
In this conversation organized by United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme on 21 June 2023, over 140 representatives from UN agencies, governments, academia, and volunteer movements discussed Youth Volunteering for employability skills development.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Kyoko Yokosuka, UNV Deputy Executive Coordinator mentioned that less than a third of young people who enter the job market every year gets absorbed into a job of their choice, while the rest end up as either under-employed or unemployed. She said this was due to a number of factors including the lack of job skill sets adding that governments, civil society, and academia were working to find practical solutions on the challenges that the youth faced.
The webinar was based on a paper written by Mr. Niall O’Higgins, Senior Economist at the International Labour Organization (ILO)jointly published by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme titled “On the Design of Volunteer Programmes to facilitate the entry and re-entry of young people into work”.
Mr. Niall O’Higgins said that the focus of the work was on how volunteering experience could benefit the entry and re-entry of young people into work. In addition to reviewing impact evaluations of volunteer programmes, the paper examined cross sectional and longitudinal data on employment challenges faced by young people and then this was transposed on the findings from impact evaluations of active labour market and internship programs.
Sharing some of the findings regarding the impact of evaluations of volunteer work, he highlighted that participation in volunteer work is often associated with positive employment and wage benefits and that volunteer work effects vary across groups, countries and times; volunteer work is also associated with better outcomes for people who have high levels of formal education.
Mr. O’ Higgins pointed out that it was difficult to control the casualties that tend to reduce the impact of volunteering on labour market outcomes.
While putting together the evidence on volunteering with impact evaluations of the labour market, he highlighted that volunteering was voluntary and that volunteer programme elements such as the duration of the programme, the content and the structure of the programme, among others, were key ensuring better outcomes.
He concluded by noting that there was need for more information on impact evaluations of volunteer programmes in low- and middle-income countries as well as need for evidence on what works, why it worked and why it did not work in other situations.
Mr. Waseem Carrim, CEO of the National Youth Development Agency in South Africa talked about the difficult transition by young people from learning opportunities to entering the job market. He highlighted the importance of focusing on the objectives and the core components of the support infrastructure for young people from school, training and entering the job market. In South Africa, this included the National Pathway Management Network, a platform that help to understand the demand and bridge existing skills gap with actual job market demand thus enabling the local ecosystems to facilitate self-employment. Highlighting the success of the platform, he mentioned that more than 40 000 young people had secured opportunities, 45 000 have been supported through skills demand and close to 1000 enterprises offered opportunities to young people.
Mr. Waseem said that his organization introduced the Basic Education Employment initiative as part of mitigating the covid-19 pandemic by engaging young people. As part of that initiative, 800 000 young people were placed in 26 000 public schools.
He added that the Revitalized National Youth Service model which consisted of 16 hours of a participant’s time per week helped to support young people to explore further opportunities for training, employment or entrepreneurship during their service.
Prof Matt Baillie-Smith, Northumbria University’s Centre for Global Development shared the groundbreaking research on Refugee Youth Volunteering Programme in Uganda. Prof Matt said the aim of the research project was to understand how volunteering by refugee youth in Uganda and by default in other locations could help young people acquire employability skills and reduced inequalities. He said the project involved over 3800 participants including young and adult refugees, employers, government officials, staff from humanitarian and development agencies as well as community-based organizations.
Some of the highlights from the research were: relationship between volunteering, skills, and employment and the need for more research and evidence; that if not properly planned volunteering could actually increase inequalities in refugee lives and livelihoods because of the difficulties by some to access volunteering opportunities and then finally, the lack of prior skills and qualifications as key barriers to accessing volunteering opportunities.
Some of the key recommendations from the research were that there was need for fair and inclusive volunteering recruitment policies, need for more evidence on the role of volunteering on young people’s struggles for attain sustainable livelihoods and that it was vital to invest in technical and vocational education and training to reduce the perception that volunteering was a panacea for sustainable livelihoods for young people.
In case you missed the webinar, please find the Recording here.