Volunteering News: Volunteering NVQ credit in sight

Tania Mason

The Russell Commission, charged with devising a framework for boosting youth volunteering, is expected to recommend that volunteer work should count as credits towards a recognised qualification such as an NVQ.

It is also likely to propose a national accreditation scheme that employers will recognise when recruiting, and recommend that businesses sponsor aspects of the youth volunteering framework, such as the website.

Jamie Thomas, head of the Russell Commission review team, told Third Sector that one of the strongest themes to come out of the consultation with young people was that they "don't feel that employers recognise what it meant for them to have done some volunteering".

But consultation with businesses revealed that employers are confused by the plethora of certificates, awards and systems for accrediting volunteering.

The only one that they really rate highly is the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, Thomas said, "because of lot of business leaders themselves have done it.

"The challenge is to come up with something like that, but that is perceived to be more inclusive. The Duke of Edinburgh Award is perceived as a bit middle-class, which in practice is probably not true, but that is the perception. We need to simplify the process so there is just one major vehicle that all employers will recognise."

While this would accredit some of the softer skills like commitment shown and personal learning, many employers feel that voluntary work should also be able to count towards more formal qualifications. "For instance, if someone is doing volunteering on environmental projects, they should be able to get credits towards a level-two NVQ that relates to that type of activity," said Thomas.

He added that while the Government didn't expect the private sector to pay for the new framework, it was hoping that youth-focused brands would be attracted to sponsorship opportunities such as the website. Corporates might also be willing to provide bursaries to send young volunteers abroad for a few months as part of their 12-month placement.

"We will recommend that whoever takes it forward should be thinking creatively ... not just from a corporate affairs point of view but also from a cause-related marketing perspective," he said.

Also ...

CSV executive director Dame Elisabeth Hoodless and former Home Secretary David Blunkett both proposed radical ideas to encourage volunteering last week. Hoodless said the youth strategy should offer young people the chance to become magistrates. Blunkett suggested businesses should encourage their employees to mentor immigrants and asylum seekers to help both learn new languages.

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