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Introducing the voluntary sector
Introducing the voluntary sector

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3.1 Volunteering and employers

Employers are reported to be impressed by voluntary work. Research carried out by Reed Recruitment agency for the charity Timebank (OU Careers, n.d.) found that:

  • 73 % of employers would employ a candidate with volunteering experience over one without
  • 94 % of employers believe that volunteering can add to skills
  • 58 % of employers say that voluntary work experience can actually be more valuable than experience gained in paid employment
  • 94 % of employees who volunteered to learn new skills had benefited either by getting their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted.

There is clearly little doubt about how employers see the benefits of volunteering experience. Although all volunteering can be interesting to them, there are some careers where relevant volunteering experience is a prerequisite. Teaching, law, environment/conservation, heritage and social work are common examples but there are many others. Positions in the arts, media, publishing, development and charitable sectors are often difficult to enter without a network of contacts, direct practical experience of the industry and enormous enthusiasm.

Internships – which are lengthy periods of unpaid work – are important in many industries. However, they have attracted criticism in the media and from candidates seeking work as not everybody can afford to take them on. Furthermore, it is argued that they should be offered as unpaid work experience, for example doing a one-off project or shadowing staff, and with training, rather than being essential jobs that were once paid positions. In other words, some industries are using internships appropriately whereas other organisations are perceived as exploiting volunteers.