By Iona Bain
Young people have always been renowned for their idealism and commitment to good causes – who would want it any other way? But research is now showing that members of generation Y are helping their local community as a way of gaining vital experience in the ‘real’ world, even if they seldom get basic expenses for their time and effort.
A recent report by Ecclesiastical, a specialist insurer of charities, heritage sites and community organisations, has revealed the vital role that young people play in driving the UK economy simply through volunteering. One in five young people are active in their local community in one way or another, a greater percentage than any other generation.
The Community Census report showed that 35% of young adults intend to spend more time in community activities and believe this will enhance their skills and knowledge much more than older generations. Interestingly, heritage sites seem to offer the most potential for learning – it’s the reason why almost half of young people sign up to volunteer at places of historic interest.
Why? Well, young unemployment continues to be a stubborn fact of modern life. It’s remained depressingly high for the last year, with one fifth of 18-24 year olds out of work and not in education.
Getting out there and making yourself useful in the community is certainly better than waiting for an employer to conjure up a dream job for you. The labour market has now changed beyond recognition compared to even twenty years ago. Young people need to demonstrate get-up-and-go far earlier in life, rather than depend on a school and possible university education to provide a seamless route into continual employment. Furthermore, the third sector needs all then help it can get in the current economic environment, so will welcome energetic and fresh young volunteers with open arms.
However, young people who are generous (and intelligent enough) to recognize the value of volunteering could be in a very financially precarious situation. This could be seriously exacerbated if the people and institutions around them don’t support their quest to plug the employment gap in their life.
They may need continual help from the Bank of Mum and Dad (or from other family members and guardians) whilst they essentially work for free. Furthermore, young people have to resist the temptation to access payday loans, run up massive overdrafts or max out credit cards in order to tide themselves over.
Fortunately, these challenges are being acknowledged by more charities, financial providers and politicians, as they seek to improve both the financial awareness and job prospects of young people in this economic storm. The Personal Finance Education Group and Standard Life have launched a new initiative called Take Charge, which will help to clarify the upcoming priorities in financial education and enable young people to becoming more employable.
Let’s hope young people can continue to help others (and themselves) in their local communities without being at a massive financial disadvantage.