CIPD and City Mayor launch schemes to boost opportunities and promote benefits

Volunteering is “vital” for both businesses and young jobseekers, and employers have a key role in promoting the benefits, delegates heard at the launch of two schemes in the Capital this week.

The Mayoral initiative, HeadStart London, and the CIPD’s Steps Ahead Mentoring scheme, aim to give young people the opportunity to gain valuable experience and increase their future employability.

The programmes will help tackle youth unemployment in London, which is currently at 24 per cent as well as supporting social mobility as ONS data shows the city is considered one of the most socially segregated cities in the developed world.

“I truly believe that volunteering can provide for our young people a vital first step on the ladder to career success, whether that be through gaining new skills and confidence, or getting support from professionals giving up their time to mentor them,” Mayor Boris Johnson said.

“I hope that more businesses of all sizes will recognise the benefit of volunteering as a valuable route to enriching their workforce and seeking out prospective new talented employees.”

Johnson joined CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese to call for an increase in business engagement with volunteering across the capital, particularly in support of young people under the age of 25.

Nearly 300 CIPD volunteers have registered across London to become a mentor under the Steps Ahead programme, and the CIPD aims to increase this to 1,000 in the next 12 months.

“One issue that we consistently hear about from those working in HR is that they worry about talent pipelines. On the flipside one of the main barriers that young people face when seeking employment is a lack of insight into the world of work,” Cheese said.

“One way to bridge that gap is to encourage those working in HR, who hold responsibility for the recruitment of new staff, to volunteer with young jobseekers to help enlighten them about what employers look for.”

HR professionals are well placed to advise young jobseekers, he said, and can “make a valuable contribution… by helping them with employability skills, including CV writing, interview technique and job search”.

Employers will have to take steps in supporting staff who volunteer, including allowing them appropriate time off and actively encouraging participation in these programmes.

The Mayor of London called for more companies to join Starbucks and New Look under the HeadStart programme, which asks 16 to 18 year olds to commit to 16 hours of volunteer work before being guaranteed a job interview with the company.

Lisa Robbins, HR director at Starbucks UK, said she is already seeing the benefits: “The calibre of people who are coming through the programme is very strong.”

“Young people with volunteering experience pass four out of five interviews compared to one out of five without,” she said.

Any young jobseekers (aged 18-24) keen to be mentored should speak to their local Jobcentre Plus adviser to find out more. And any CIPD members who would like to become a mentor can register via the CIPD website: www.cipd.co.uk/stepsaheadmentoring