THE BLOG

Community Work: The Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Unemployment

31/07/2015 12:46 BST | Updated 30/07/2016 10:59 BST

Every year in August, thousands of students across the country wait for exam results to determine what their next step will be. But qualifications aren't the only factor when it comes to getting a job. The things we learn at school and on higher education courses will only take us so far - the real challenge is showing employers you can apply your skills to real-life situations.

You know the drill; get out there and get some work experience if you want to show future employers what you're made of. Whether it's a temporary placement or a more lucrative entry-level job, work experience can help bridge the gap between the worlds of education and employment. It's also a great way to find out what suits you, enabling you to try out different roles and industries before you decide on your next steps.

But what happens if you're struggling to get a work experience placement in today's competitive market? Or if the jobs you want are still out of reach because you haven't had a chance to demonstrate all the skills your preferred employer is looking for?

A limitation of work experience is that candidates often spend much of their time learning the ropes and supporting other members of their team. Yes, it's a great opportunity to demonstrate employability skills and learn new things, but it's rare to be put in charge of a major project or given responsibility for things like budgeting.

There is a straightforward and rewarding way to fill this gap in experience. Volunteering in your community not only allows you to run your own project, giving you the opportunity to learn and demonstrate valuable skills you might not get elsewhere, it can also help build your confidence and do wonders for your local neighbourhood.

I'm talking about very real and significant benefits here - the kind that make potential employers sit up and take notice. Some of the young people we work with here at The Prince's Trust, for example, work together to raise hundreds of pounds for their communities, taking on innovative projects ranging from renovating buildings to helping schools in order to benefit their local neighbourhoods.

The social value of community work like this is tremendous. Recent research by NEF Consulting for The Prince's Trust shows each community project undertaken by young people taking part in our Team programme, a scheme supported by Barclays which gives young people the skills and confidence to find work, generated an average £3,600 in social value last year. Overall, the teams we had on the programme created a whopping £90 million in social value in the UK in just one year, and what's more, they're always telling us how rewarding it feels to have given something back to their local communities.

We know we're onto something by incorporating community projects alongside work experience on the Team programme - three in four of the young people who complete the programme move into work, education or training within three months of finishing it.

We'd encourage anyone who needs a chance to shine to get involved with their local communities to help them stand out from the crowd and increase their chances of getting noticed by potential employers.

As a National Programme Manager for The Prince's Trust, Michelle oversees the running of the youth charity's Team programme, which helps disadvantaged young people gain the skills and confidence they need to move into work, education or training through teamwork in the community.

The programme is run in hundreds of venues across the UK by The Trust's partners, which include dozens of colleges, the Fire and Rescue Service, police forces across the UK, YMCAs and Groundwork, with support from organisations such as the Ministry of Justice, Help for Heroes and the military.

The Prince's Trust is celebrating the 25th year of its Team programme and has helped more than 187,000 young people move into work, education or training since 1990.