Volunteering as a route (back) to employment?

Photo © CEV
Photo © CEV
Cyrille Marc Schmid, English translation Anna Grandone
29 March 2007

By means of its representatives, Maria Vila (Barcelona) and Cyrille Marc Schmid (Geneva), ICVolunteers participated in the General Assembly of the European Volunteer Centre which took place from 22-23 March 2007 in Paris. The 100 or so participants, researchers and members of various NGOs, debated the central question of 'Volunteering as a route (back) to employment'.

To answer this question, several spokespersons expressed their points of view through concrete studies. The one that caught ICVolunteers' attention most was a study entitled "Volunteering - a tool to employability" carried out by Mr. Dominique Thierry, Vice-President of France Bénévolat. The study included data from several locations in France among which are Nantes, Lille, Alès, Aix en Provence, Orléans and many more.

The study showed the following results: 4 potential beneficial impacts of volunteering for the job-seeking volunteer were identified:

  • the improvement of self-image;
  • the creation of an interpersonal and/or support network;
  • the clarification of one's professional goals through a connected or a similar activity; 
  • the development of competencies as through any qualifying activity.

Mr. Thierry also gave an original description of various volunteers. According to him, these can be classified as follows:

  • The strategists who represent 20% of all cases - their aim is to use the volunteering activity in view of a specific objective.
  • The discoverers estimated at around 40% of cases - as their name indicates, they are still discovering the world of volunteering.
  • The regular participants - people who regularly contribute their time,
  • The too massacred - a strong expression that describes individuals wishing to come out of a profound isolation.

Another essential point of his presentation was to underline that volunteering has a perverse flip-side if it is not carried out in a structured manner. The risks are the following:

  • stagnation in volunteering;
  • less energy for job-seeking;
  • disaffection from the realities of the working world as there are less constraints, less stress and generally a more friendly atmosphere.

Through this study, it was clearly established that volunteering is a positive path for job-seekers. However, certain safeguards should be introduced, namely a structure for the reception of volunteers and a strict follow-up system.

It can also be noted that in most cases, the volunteer finds or re-finds employment thanks to his or her involvement as a volunteer and does so more rapidly than if he or she had not undertaken this activity.

Finally, Mr. Thierry ended his speech by saying with much enthusiasm and conviction: "there is no longer any doubt that for an unemployed person volunteering is a positive route to or back to employment".

After a well-filled day, the participants were able to appreciate not only a visit to the Eiffel Tower but also a Gala Dinner on the first floor of this illustrious architectural marvel.

It was only the following day, after having presented the CyberVolunteers Programme to the participants, that ICVolunteers returned respectively to Switzerland and Catalonia.

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