In February 2022, Skills Development Scotland published a comprehensive study into Scotland’s Career Services. This study was commissioned by the Scottish Government as part of their commitment to the Young Person’s Guarantee – an initiative which aims to ensure that all 16 to 24-year-olds in Scotland have access to an opportunity such as a job, apprenticeship, further or higher education, training or volunteering. In the study, 10 evidence-based, wide-ranging recommendations were outlined with the purpose of delivering on the ambition of Scotland’s Careers Strategy, Moving Forward, with the aim to:
“ensure that career services are fit for purpose and future proofed to meet the demands of a changing world of work”
It was fantastic to read such a comprehensive report on the services available to young people taking their next steps in education or towards the job market – especially in a time where it may feel that their imagined future is no longer certain. The impact of COVID-19, Brexit and the cost-of-living crisis are frightening events to for young people to face, as they choose what path they want to follow in a rapidly changing world.
Working with 3rd year pupils at Castlebrae High School, Edinburgh, these recommendations seemed so important and relevant to the young people that I support. In my role, I help place pupils into structured, supportive volunteering placements that allow them to build and nurture their essential skills for entering the job market in a few years time, and this volunteering program has since seen expansion to St. Thomas of Aquin’s High School. Volunteering opportunities like these allow the young people to explore the sort of work that they might like to do (or not to do!), easing them out of their comfort zones in a supportive environment. Here, I’d like to highlight just a few of the recommendations and why I think they’re so important to the young people that we work with.
Developing skills and habits essential for the future world of work
Volunteering is a fantastic opportunity for individuals to build their confidence, their interpersonal skills, their ability to follow instructions, to work alongside others and manage their time effectively. This is done in a safe, supportive and non-judgemental environment where young people can build these skills slowly and at a pace that’s in line with their abilities. I have worked with pupils who are nervous about communicating with new people or making friends, and after a few hours in a community café they are contributing as a vital part of a volunteer team, taking food orders and building relationships with staff and regular visitors. Some of the young people are apprehensive about using public transport alone, however after a few assisted bus journeys and time spent journey planning, they are confident to travel to their placement themselves and start to feel confident in their ability to travel independently within their local area. I believe volunteering allows young people to grow and explore new possibilities that they perhaps felt were out of reach to them.
Experiential career education
This recommendation’s aim is for experiential work-related learning to become part of the ‘fabric’ of curriculum design and delivery in schools, colleges and universities. According to the report, evidence suggests that work experience is plays a key role in learning, allowing pupils to develop skills through more hands-on methods. It has been found that international best practice models include curriculum hours dedicated to experiential work-based learning. At Volunteering Matters, we have long known the benefits of volunteering and how transformational it can be to the individual (as well as organisations receiving support). I recognise how regular volunteering hours as part of a pupils weekly timetable can compliment academic activities within the school. Rather than seeing it as purely a work-based opportunity, we feel that the potential of volunteering takes people further. Igniting passion for social action as individuals become involved addressing place-based issues within their community, volunteering can instill a sense of self-worth and build self-esteem. Local charities and the wider area can benefit from increased support from a new demographic of volunteer – increasing awareness of their cause and exposing their organisations to new ideas and fresh perspectives. Win-win!
Place-based working is at the heart of Volunteering Matters’ ethos. We aim to embed ourselves in local communities to address specific place-based needs. We do this by creating relationships with local individuals and organisations, working flexibly and taking time to listen, learn and understand the challenges faced within the areas we work in. The Career Review found that, often, young people don’t view formal careers services as accessible to them, and much prefer to receive support from people that understand them, their community and their lived experiences. Our place-based approach puts us in a fantastic position to assist young people in gaining valuable first experiences of career guidance and to introduce the world of work to them in a supportive way. Having a recognisable, consistent presence within their school allows me to build trusting relationships with pupils, their teachers, and the wider school community. As a familiar person aware of their friendship groups, aspects of their family lives, their interests and their goals, I aim to break down barriers that may stop them from achieving the potential that they have.
As part of the strategy for achieving this recommendation, The Career Review Implementation Plan aims to “outline how existing skillsets in third sector organisations can be built on to provide and enhance career-related services”. I find it encouraging that the value of third sector organisations are recognised in this space and that Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Government intend to work alongside organisations that can provide this level of community-based support. My colleagues and I look forward to being part of these conversations, of sharing our experiences, and those of the young people that we are already supporting.
With thanks to Skills Development Scotland for these recommendations. To view the full list, visit:
Written by Caitlin Nisbet, Volunteer Engagement Manager, on behalf of Volunteering Matters:
To find out more about our community-based projects across the UK, visit: