UN World Youth Report


Do you think that volunteerism and internships can adequately prepare young people for future paid employment? Do you have any personal examples to share?

What young people say:

On the upside…

Most participants believed that volunteering (and 2011 is the European Union Year of Volunteering) and internships are a vital part of an education: such opportunities make an individual stand out when seeking a job. Not only do they provide an “opportunity to learn, but also an opportunity to put into practice new skills,” says Seabe, 23, from Botswana. Thus, young people are able to familiarize themselves with a work environment and explore channels to network. Young people in this discussion all encouraged one another to get engaged in volunteerism and internships, with Bijay, 27, from Nepal concluding that, “volunteerism has a double benefit: youth can develop their experience and skills and the Government’s development plan can be successful.”

Bob, 24, from Freetown in Sierra Leone told us:

“In my country, those young people benefitting from employment are those who are most connected to politicians. …they will only create a short-term job for young people for a while, and later the whole thing will just die down… But there is an international organization called Restless Development that creates …employment for young people through volunteerism and internships on a yearly basis. They have engaged a good number of youth who are just finishing their high school level of education.”

One participant from Yemen, Sara, explained how useful it was to start an internship while she was still studying. This allowed her to apply her studies, to boost her self-confidence and to make useful contacts:

“I would definitely encourage any young individual to go out and intern in different companies as much as they can. From my personal experience, doing internships while studying helped me to apply what I studied and implement it in the real world. These experiences boosted my confidence, and enhanced many aspects of my personality and social skills.”

Edith, a third-year undergraduate from Ghana, confidently remarked that,

“I have plans to start my own media and graphic design company so I can also employ many Ghanaian youth. All of these opportunities and more that I cannot put on this page were a result of my interest in volunteering…I joined a media child rights advocacy group (Curious Minds) in 2001 as a volunteer when I was 11 years old. Most of the advocacy is done through regular radio programmes of national radio, quarterly magazines (the Springboard magazine), colloquiums, community outreach and outside broadcasts. Over the years, this experience exposed me to many issues and capacity-building sessions.”

On the downside…

Internships can be used by employers as only a source for cheap labour. Internship conditions can be exploitative and do not always lead to employment, despite an intern’s demonstrated skills and motivation. Seabe, age 23, from Botswana told us:

“I have submitted more than 80 CVs around the world in search of a job related to my degree, but I've had no luck. I remain hopeful though. Despite the internship programmes and trying to find a job, I've been trying to get my own small business ventures started, but as I mentioned before, investors seem skeptical.”

The rural/urban divide was discussed among participants, several of whom highlighted that internships are often only available to the well-off and those living in urban areas. In addition, a lack of access to information about internship opportunities prevents young people from seizing them.

Final insights…

Internships/volunteering can foster social entrepreneurship…

Tiburce, 26, from Benin (residing in India), who works with the Global Youth Innovation Network, told us:

“I created my own social business to help other young people to have a better understanding of what the marketplace requires… I am working on raising a new generation of African entrepreneurs. I wish the education system in African countries would integrate innovative advanced or complete solutions that help young people study and be an added value to the community. Theory should be 30 per cent and practice 70 per cent.”

A challenge to us all from Tati: “I think we need young people to be more proactive: we need to be linked up with research projects and volunteer opportunities in order to better understand the workplace.”


Read 18397 times Last modified on Monday, 06 February 2012 23:02
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The UN Focal Point on Youth aims to build awareness of the global situation of young people, as well as promote their rights and aspirations, working toward greater participation of young people in decision-making as a means for achieving peace and development.

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