Firms do not value skills learnt in voluntary work

Employers are failing to recognise the skills that job candidates have
acquired by doing voluntary work overseas, a report claims.

Research by Demos and VSO shows that despite the current skills shortages, many
job applicants are being overlooked by employers when they return from
volunteering abroad.

Employers often view the time spent out of the UK as wasted, when in fact it
develops a range of skills, including communication, adaptability and strategic
thinking, claims the report, Human Traffic.

Report author Gillian Thomas said, "Most employers overlooked these
skills because they don’t see volunteering as career-building. We also found
that overseas experience isn’t considered as valuable as UK experience."

Volunteer work abroad also develops awareness of global issues, cultural
idiosyncrasies, language skills, religious understanding and the ability to
adapt to environments, claims the report.

On returning to the UK ex-volunteers have more advanced interpersonal and
budgeting skills than their contemporaries, but often end up taking reduced
responsibility and remuneration.

Thomas said, "The public sector seemed to be more positive about
volunteering, but less able to integrate it into their organisations. There
were even cases of people being demoted on their return.

She called on HR professionals to incorporate volunteering into career
development. She said, "There is a real opportunity for HR to be flexible
in the way people progress and in letting them explain the skills they have

By Ross Wigham

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