Talent scout: why we need to reinvent the degree for Generation Citizen

The sector needs a new kind of qualification to attract a new generation into our workplaces, says Matt Hyde, CEO of The Scout Association

Against a politically turbulent backdrop and a summer of horrific news, one thing worth cherishing is that the millennials (those born in the 1980s and 90s) are considered by many commentators to be the most civic-minded generation since the fifties.

Described as ‘Generation Citizen’ by Demos, we now have more young people volunteering and more young people voting. In fact, the most recent Community Life survey suggests 16-24 year olds are more likely to volunteer than any other age group.

A new kind of qualification
You might think this was a golden time for the social sector – charities, voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises – to be tapping in to this desire to change the world, attracting new talent to our workplaces.

But we’re not making it easy.

In the UK there is no undergraduate degree dedicated to social change, unlike in the US and Australia. We tend to think that it’s the sort of thing you do at postgraduate level once you’ve done a ‘proper degree’ like English or maths. Or we channel young people down a vocational route.

Improving the lives of others
The false choice between academic versus vocational is not helping, and misunderstands both the mindset and the potential of this new generation. We need to open up new pathways where young people can earn and learn, while developing career pathways dedicated to improving the lives of others. We need to take a multi-disciplinary approach to foster both the technical skills to thrive in the social sector (with impact at its heart) and the critical thinking needed to help a new generation of leaders who can analyse social challenges and conceive new solutions.

This opportunity was highlighted by Dame Mary Marsh in her 2012 Review of Skills and Leadership in the Voluntary Sector, where she recommended the development of bespoke “trainee/ graduate development schemes including more entry routes for 16-19 year olds.”

That’s why for the last six months at The Scouts we’ve been working with colleagues from over 15 major brands across the social sector (from British Red Cross to Age UK), as well as Queen Mary University of London and the University of Liverpool, to develop a social sector degree apprenticeship.

An employment pathway
A degree apprenticeship is an employment pathway where you secure employment, get paid and earn a degree. And the beauty of it is you can offset the tuition against the apprenticeship levy, ensuring participants gain a degree without the costs of tuition fees and the employer (and the sector) gains a brilliant new employee.

You can read the details here.

We think this an exciting opportunity for the social sector to attract new talent and develop an offer that is relevant and compelling for this new generation. For this to happen we need it to be agreed by the newly-formed Institute of Apprenticeships.

So if you agree with us that this represents an innovative and much-needed new pathway for people to work in the social sector, please share your thoughts via the consultation online form here – deadline for comments is Monday 10 July.

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