NCVO report says charities give too much weight to higher qualifications

And according to its research this means they might be excluding candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds

Are charities focusing too much on people with degrees? (Photograph: Mark Draisey Photography/Getty Images)
Are charities focusing too much on people with degrees? (Photograph: Mark Draisey Photography/Getty Images)

Charities give too much weight to recruiting staff with high-level qualifications or work experience, which means they could be excluding candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds, says research released today by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Analysis by the NCVO of three major national surveys – the Employer Skills Survey, the Employer Perspectives Survey and the Labour Force Survey – found that 51 per cent of the charity sector’s workforce was degree educated.

The NCVO also found that 70 per cent of charities put "critical" or "significant" value on work experience among potential recruits, and 43 per cent of charities accepted they had staff with qualifications more advanced than necessary for their existing roles.

In comparison, 41 per cent of public sector employers had over-qualified staff, and 33 per cent of those in the private sector.

The charity sector was also underperforming compared with the public and private sectors in terms of recruiting people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, NCVO’s research found.

Just 9 per cent of the charity sector’s workforce was BAME, the research found, compared with 12 per cent in each of the other two sectors.

Keeva Rooney, senior researcher at the NCVO, said the findings "paint a clear picture of a highly skilled workforce – indeed, often an over-skilled workforce". Although that was an asset, she said, some groups still faced greater barriers to higher education and getting work experience, particularly unpaid experience.

"It’s important that we think about the consequences of this for the shape of workforces as a whole," she said.

"If charity employers are prioritising applications from those with degrees or even higher-level degrees – and sometimes accepting only those – or with possibly more experience than is really required, they inevitably create barriers that some groups will be more likely to be affected by than others.

"Unless charities think about how to invest in bringing in and training staff with different backgrounds, we’re likely to continue to see the sector struggling in terms of diversity."

Researchers also found that charity sector workers were more likely to be older than those in the public or private sectors, with 38 per cent aged over 50 compared with 35 per cent in the public sector and 30 per cent in private companies.

Charities were found to employ more women as a proportion of the workforce than other sectors, with 67 per cent of the workforce being female, compared with 66 per cent of the public sector and 41 per cent of the private sector.

The NCVO released some findings from the study earlier this week that showed the charity sector was lagging behind the private sector on digital skills, but outperforming public sector organisations.

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