Volunteering - Why formally recognised qualifications are needed

10 Mar 2014

Volunteering- something that despite the bad press in many British newspapers, has given the younger generation a chance to give something back and proactively improve their career prospects at the same time. The so called “third sector” has been a power in making lives better. Being someone who has completed almost 300 volunteer hours since I started in 2011, I may be biased; however, I have seen evidence first-hand that suggests that it is an activity that benefits all.


Back when Gordon Brown came to power in 2007, I never expected to be praising him for much at all. However, having founded vInspired, a charity that has given myself and many other extensive voluntary opportunities over the past three years, he has made a lasting impact on the lives of many young people around the UK. The third-sector now stands over 1 million strong, and although this is not entirely down to Mr Brown (now in the ironically voluntary post of UN Envoy for Education), he played a big part in allowing many to get recognition for the hard work that they put in. I also applaud him for the work that he is currently doing, which, despite being not well publicised, is continuing to make people’s lives better and giving the opportunity for all to learn.

The third-sector has been vital to keeping this country afloat and I praise my fellow volunteers in combating negative stereotypes, actively benefiting their careers and stepping in to aid those in need, either in an everyday environment or as we have seen more recently, in a crisis. 

It is for this reason that I call on the Coalition government to recognise the work of volunteers and offer support where needed to help these individuals into paid roles. While I appreciate that it is easier to get a job having done voluntary work, there is still very little formal recognition of such efforts. And although I recognise that ASDAN, an awarding body for vocational qualifications, provides some opportunities, I have seen little else to suggest there are opportunities for formal qualifications for those in voluntary work.

There are many informal awards for this type of work however, which is a step in the right direction. In my local area for example, on Tuesday 10th March 2014 the Vibe Awards will be taking place in recognition of local young volunteers who have contributed to the community. Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite amount to the formal qualification I believe is needed, but at least there are embryonic models for the government to follow.

The number of volunteers working tirelessly up and down the country indicates that formal recognition is vital. However, unfortunately, I think it will be a while before we see a solid national qualification from a major awarding body and this is a shame. Under government cuts, the positive activities that many young people take part in are disappearing. Please politicians, just once, have some sense and reward a positive activity that makes many young people's futures so much brighter.

Backbench Minister for Education

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