Summer of Service Gives Boost to Jobseekers

By Kerry Sullivan and Wendy Spencer

CNCS studies have found that unemployed people who volunteer have a greater likelihood of finding employment.

Volunteering can increase the likelihood of finding a permanent positionAround this time of year, many young people are well into summer jobs. Taking advantage of time between school years, they’re gaining skills and experience that can translate to future employment success. For some, this might be their first job and they are learning what happens in a work environment. Many are working in jobs where they can apply a theory they learned in a textbook to a real-life context. Everyone is building networks of potential employers and rounding out their resume. 

For many young people, a summer job means working with a local business. But companies aren’t the only organizations that offer these development opportunities. For the roughly 1-in-5 young people who didn’t get a job this summer, and those who are thinking about what they might want to do next summer, there is another great option: volunteering. Serving or working at a local nonprofit helps increase your future job prospects while you make a difference in your community. 

Volunteers develop on-the-job experience, sharpen leadership and problem-solving skills, and expand their professional contacts, all steps that can make a big difference in today’s competitive job market. The Corporation for National and Community Service found in a recent survey that unemployed people who volunteer are 27 percent more likely to be employed a year later than non-volunteers. This increase holds up no matter the person’s gender, age, ethnicity, geographical area or job market conditions.

Volunteers develop on-the-job experience, sharpen leadership and problem-solving skills, and expand their professional contacts, all steps that can make a big difference in today’s competitive job market.

Another survey from Deloitte found that human resources executives look favorably on skilled volunteering when they review resumes. Eighty-one percent of HR executives consider college graduates with volunteer experience as more desirable job candidates.

Nonprofits are well positioned to provide volunteering opportunities — during the summer and the school year. These organizations are often forced to do more with little funding, and volunteers fill gaps in capacity. And it’s not only nonprofits who gain from this. The Deloitte study found that 85 percent of college seniors said they learned something that helped them while volunteering at a nonprofit. And volunteering does more than just building young people’s skills and resumes, it teaches them about their community and the importance of giving back. 

With clear benefits for nonprofits, young people, and their communities and economies alike, Bank of America created Student Leaders. Now in its 10th year, Student Leaders offers young people who have already demonstrated a commitment to service in their communities the chance to gain skills and resume-building experiences. Over the years, it has placed more than 2,000 high school students in paid, eight-week internships at local nonprofits.

Every year AmeriCorps offers thousands of summer service positions across the country to those 18 and up. Summer AmeriCorps programs include teaching STEM education to kids, supporting food banks and summer feeding sites, and building trails in national parks. In addition to gaining valuable work skills, AmeriCorps members receive a living allowance and earn money to pay for college — all while giving back. 

With young people still suffering the highest rates of unemployment, more programs are needed that place teens in jobs and volunteer opportunities. Supporting programs that focus on placing young people with nonprofits have an added bottom line. Corporations can leverage existing nonprofit partnerships to create summer volunteer and job opportunities. Corporations can also partner with mayors to fund youth employment initiatives. These types of partnerships can make a real difference to the health of our communities, directly through the work that the volunteers are engaged in, but also through the longer-term benefits from the skills that the volunteers learn.

Come August, those who spent their summer volunteering or working for a nonprofit can look forward to telling their classmates and peers what they did and learned this summer vacation. More importantly, they can tell that same story to HR managers, potentially helping them secure their next job with the knowledge that they also made an impact on the challenges facing their community.

This blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post Impact blog. Kerry Sullivan is president of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. Wendy Spencer is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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