Nesta has identified a sweet-spot between the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) benefits of employee volunteering and the commercial imperative to fill the digital skills gap. In collaboration with the Tech Partnership, and in consultation with many companies and digital learning providers, they have published some guidance for employers thinking about setting up an employee volunteering programme to support young digital skills development. Here we look at some of the ‘gives and gets’.
An estimated 11 million people in the UK are given paid time off to volunteer, which even valued conservatively, constitutes a billion pounds’ worth of support to deserving causes. Yet, according to Benefacto, only 17% of it gets used.
This is in contrast to the well publicised benefits of employee volunteering – with evidence that it can bring a host of benefits to businesses in the form of staff retention and morale, team building, cost effective personal development, community connections, recruitment, and enhanced profile.
Like the benefits of employee volunteering, the need for people who combine digital skills with business, leadership and communication skills is well known. For example, 1.4 million digital professionals are needed over the next five years in the UK, and 93% of tech firms believe the digital skills gap has a direct negative impact on their business. Digital skills development is increasingly a priority for employer bodies, education communities, national and local government.
There is a growing movement of organisations (many supported by Nesta) providing extra-curricular opportunities for young people to pick up digital making skills via kits, online tutorials, and after school/weekend workshops. But these organisations are far from being able to meet demand.
Their research found that 82% of school age children are interested in digital making, but only one in 60 of these are able to access opportunities to learn outside the classroom. And it’s a field powered by volunteers – two thirds of providers are reliant on volunteers to provide their service. More skills development opportunities for young people therefore requires more volunteers. And businesses feeling the pinch of the digital skills gap are most likely to recognise (and reap) the benefits of this investment in volunteering.
RIO is an organisation passionate about volunteering, both providing volunteers with relevant opportunities across a variety of sectors, but also seeing the benefits that volunteers have on the organisation. Volunteers provide much needed support and an outside perspective. Devonport Market Hall, set to reopen as a digital visitor centre and hub for the community and local digital organisations in 2017 and we will embed our volunteering offer throughout the development process.