Earlier this month a jubilant Department of Education announced the 78% pass rate for the 2013 Matriculants. But hot on the heels of the release came questions, criticisms and expressions of concern regarding the lack of jobs, the skills deficit, and the relevance of a university degree when there was dire need for artisans (who actually earn more than graduates). We all know the problems but what about solutions?
On 9 January Rowan Philp wrote a piece in The Witness entitled “Volunteer or Bust!”
What caught my attention were the following:
• pupils had “fixed and unrealistic ideas” about jobs
• “Young people have to change their mind-set from ‘What can I get from employers?’, to ‘What can I give to employers?’ They should draw up a list of all the employed adults they know – and ask to work-shadow, intern, or just volunteer.”
• gain on-the-job experience, even if it meant no pay.
• there was “increasing concern” over viable careers for matrics.
• the country needed artisans and entrepreneurs.
The matric results have focused the nation’s attention on the desperate need to address the problems of unemployment and skills shortage. For me, the NGO environment is an ideal one for developing volunteers into skilled workers and entrepreneurs over a wide range of activities while building the capacity of communities. I have been involved in CESL (Community engagement with Student Learning) projects and seen the positive impact on young people working with NGOs.
There are so many NGOs with uplifting projects needing staff and funding. In conversation with Michael Deegan, CEO of the PMB Community Chest, he mentioned the need for NGOs to think of new ways of doing things, and to rework their corporate identity, image and communication strategies to create more awareness and draw more donors, corporate sponsors and volunteers.
Clearly the new audience is the youth and so NGOs and charities need to change the perception that charity and community work is only for the older generation. Already the Community Chest has a programme directed at the youth called the “@Generation” to address this. Having young volunteers working in NGOs would go a long way to improve their understanding and perceptions of ‘charity’ work.
NGOs are multi-dimensional too in that they operate on so many levels and with so many stakeholders – from government departments, communities, business, international donors and aid organisations to local educators, women’s groups, healthcare givers and of course the media. Volunteers would leave with a range of skills, abilities and interests to offer the world of business.
So here’s my suggestion for a possible solution:
Volunteerism as “giving to grow” – NGOs, Business and the Community can do it together
We need to develop a volunteer programme whereby unemployed matriculants go into NGOs to work and to train.
The types of skills they would learn is wide-ranging, from office admin, computer, financial and business to project management, government relations and funding policies, procedures and proposals.
However, my sphere of interest and expertise is corporate communication and public relations, so I will focus on NGOs and their dire need of strategic planning in this area. They are also perfect sites for potential learning and development of specific communication and PR skills, techniques and activities which are vital for their existence.
These include: Branding, copy writing, publicity, interpersonal communication skills, CSI – corporate social investment, community relations, media relations, sponsorship, integrated marketing, event management, and so on.
All they need is people to teach them! And funds to pay them.
So my proposal is that business contribute in money and in kind to enable NGOs to implement such a programme by covering the cost of willing professionals like me to deliver skill interventions and deliverables to achieve the outcomes – NGOs performing optimally, addressing socio-economic issues like healthcare, education, skills development, unemployment, whilst simultaneously building citizens, communities and the country.
It’s not impossible. It just takes concerned citizens and business to put their money where their mouths are! NGOs like The Community Chest are waiting for you…….