EPISODE 14: THE Y FACTOR IN VOLUNTEERING FOR DEVELOPMENT
Dr. Tapiwa Kamuruko
The United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) and the International Labour Organization (ILO)
Tapiwa Kamuruko is a Policy Specialist and Team Lead on Evidence and Knowledge brokering with the United Nations Volunteers, based at its Headquarters in Bonn, Germany. In 2022 he led UNV and ILO collaboration in a joint effort towards a paper on Youth Volunteering for employability skills development and entry into the job market.
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THE Y FACTOR IN VOLUNTEERING FOR DEVELOPMENT
When young people volunteer, they not only integrate themselves into a larger development context but also access opportunities that can take them further. These opportunities include work experience and skills development which can facilitate their entry into the jobs market.
United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and International Labour Organization (ILO) recently conducted a joint research paper which reaches these conclusions. Volunteering is where solidarity meets compassion – it’s a selfless act where monetary gain is not the primary motivation. Volunteers, a billion of them in a population of eight billion, one in every eight people, take on this valuable activity to support others in their community.
The paper also alludes to youth involvement in volunteer work and underpins volunteering as an effective mechanism for young people to find their way into, and sustain themselves in, the labour market.
A means to construct futures
Youth is by no means a small group – United Nations’ estimates put it at 1.2 billion and growing. While young people find many ways to volunteer, compared to their older peers, they tend towards organisational volunteering as they see it as a learning step, and a means to construct futures for themselves and for others.
In the post-COVID-19 environment, the labour market has become more competitive and less secure – especially for young people. Some with a niche skillset or who have aced their qualifications move ahead, leaving vulnerable and marginalised people further behind.
When young people become volunteers, they are able to raise awareness on key issues that are not getting the spotlight they deserve. Look at the conversation on climate now as compared to when young people were not a part of it.
Volunteering as a route to the job market
"Through volunteering, many young people are able to hone talents, polish skills, and up their confidence as they enter the job market."
Through volunteering, many young people are able to hone talents, polish skills, and up their confidence as they enter the job market. Their volunteering experiences guide them and often provide the impetus to move forward.
However, a critical lens should be used in assessing volunteering options.
UNV is an organisation within the United Nations system that provides global citizens with an opportunity to volunteer across the three pillars of the United Nations system: development; peace and security; and human rights. UNV promotes youth participation through volunteering, offering opportunities for young people to engage in local and global action, and providing spaces for them to contribute to peace and development as volunteers while building their skills and professional experience.
UN Youth Volunteers
In 2022, almost 1,700 UN Youth Volunteers were deployed in UN peace and development initiatives around the world – this number includes more than 200 University Volunteers.
From Latin America to Asia, and from the Arab States to Africa – UN Youth Volunteers not only advocate for the recognition of volunteerism but add expertise and knowledge to their acumen. From helping mitigate the risk of water shortages and promoting clean water and sanitation for all people. To contributing to the transitional justice system to support the creation of fairer, more equal and peaceful societies. And increasing access of information technology to under-served populations through innovative ways and online volunteering. The examples are many, and their impact on communities – overwhelming.
UNV engages the United Nations system, Member States, civil society and the private sector in promoting an environment conducive to Youth Volunteers that includes different categories where young people can amalgamate – such as University Volunteers.
Developing transferable soft skills
Volunteerism is an important pathway for enhancing youth employability, particularly through impacting transferable soft skills that educational institutions often fail to address. Participation in volunteer work can have measurable impacts on a number of characteristics that are directly or indirectly related to young people’s successful transition to employment. Volunteering also illustrates to potential employers that an individual has demonstrated a willingness to work and is committed to their own professional development.
Seeing the state of the world today, a way young people can reduce their feeling of powerlessness is to use their voice and skills to get involved in creating the world that they want to live in.
The Y factor in volunteering for development is significant – first of all to recognise the role of young people as active agents of change in their environments. And to promote volunteering as it fosters the acquisition of skills with lasting value, contributes to the development of competencies, and nurtures the cultivation of contacts expected to benefit volunteers over the longer term.