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Youth Participation in Volunteering Activites

Many young people, usually in the age bracket of 10-24 years, participate in volunteering regularly for their community. Recent figures reveal that under a third of young people in England and Wales are involved in volunteering in some capacity or the other. By not participating in volunteering efforts, the rest of the 6 million 16 to 24-year olds are missing out on all kinds of benefits that can  bear fruit through being part of a service nation.

University graduates nowadays face a really difficult jobs market and as such require more than just simply their academic degree to stand out from the competition. The global labour market is a demanding place so students need to do more to stand out amongst the competition by combining excellent academic grades with practical and soft skills, and these can be gained through volunteering. For example, if you would like to gain relevant experience for a graduate job in a marketing firm, volunteering with organisations that dole out regular voluntary activities in marketing can help your CV have an added advantage over all the other candidates.

Although it is great news that the youth of today largely show social engagement to be a priority, with many heeding the call for youth social action in a variety of international settings already, it is important to note however, that a significant proportion of the youth still encounter disenchantment with service-based roles. As such, a greater knowledge about all the benefits of volunteering should be nurtured in young children to motivate them to follow suit and invest their time in volunteering.

Evidence shows that increased participation has a positive impact on character, soft skills and education attainment, as well as improving formal political engagement, social cohesion and decreasing crime and anti-social behaviour. In addition, it also addresses some of the most cited barriers to involvement, such as lack of time, awareness or negative peer pressure. Research by The University of Manchester has shown that volunteering can help young people expand their social circle by meeting new people and build confidence, as well as increase their likelihood of finding jobs upon graduation because you should always mention your volunteering when you apply for jobs, since employers are also interested to know about what other activities you participated in at University.

Youth social action can be defined as “practical action in the service of others, which provides benefits both to the individuals taking part in it, and the community”. Youth social action often tends to be youth-led, process driven, activist in nature, and group-based. The most recent data of 2012-2013 from the Campaign for Youth Social Action showcases that 29 percent of those aged 16 to 24 in England and Wales are involved in some form of regular (monthly) formal volunteering, while about 40 percent participate in less frequent, formal volunteering at least once a year.

The data also reveals that rates of engagement in youth voluntary activity depends on ethnicity, gender, age, region, education and income levels – for example, people with higher education and income levels are more likely to volunteer.  Its important to note that amongst some marginalised youth groups, certain types of voluntary activity has increased participation. This is the case for gender as well, because the gender of a volunteer also does have an impact on the types of activities undertaken.

The most popular types of formal volunteering activities seem to be organising, helping run events, and raising money, with campaigning,  secretarial, clerical or admin work acting as the least popular types of voluntary activity. According to a report published by Demos, titled The state of the service nation, evidence from academic research and programme impact evaluations suggest that participation in social action activities that are practical in nature, is positively correlated with meta-cognitive skills, character capabilities, emotional well-being, educational attainment, school engagement, as well as other façades of active citizenship, such as formal political engagement, social cohesion, and lower crime and anti-social behaviour.

Younger people in the age bracket of 10 to 20 years may find acting as Girl Guides or The Scouts or taking part in community fairs and community services as particularly interesting, while older teenagers, on the other hand, may find more structured programmes such as The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, working for TeachFirst, or working as volunteers  for mentorship programmes, to their taste. To spur on higher voluntary participation rates amongst the youth, better targeted initiatives need to be launched, which teach young children new, service-based skills, as well as encouraging greater awareness of social issues.

These initiatives need to be largely local in nature for them to be most effective because it can help address a diverse range of interests for a varied youth age group. Perhaps increasing national knowledge of each country-specific volunteering agency, which are Volunteering England, Volunteer Ireland, Volunteer Scotland and Volunteering Wales respectively, would also be a good idea to ensure that young children know where to look for opportunities as they arise, and when they are interested in dedicating a portion of their time to volunteering.

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