Headlines: October 31st, 2007

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has called for a dedicated Third Sector Skills Council to limit the growing skills gap. The sector recognises that not enough time is being devoted to the training and development of its employees, yet it does not have the access to the skills support currently available to the public and private sectors. The call comes as new figures reveal the continuing growth of the sector and its increasing need for professional and highly skilled people.

The UK Voluntary Sector Workforce Almanac published by UK Workforce Hub and the NCVO shows an increase of 26 per cent in the last ten years to a voluntary sector workforce of 611,000 employees, bigger than the number of people working for banks and building societies. In the same period the private sector increased by 11 per cent and the public sector by 14 per cent.

The number of people in the sector working in social care has increased by 86 per cent from 149,000 in 1996 to 277,000 in 2005. Social care now accounts for 54 per cent of the voluntary sector’s employees. This increase is the main reason for the changing character of the workforce where staff are more likely to be employed in a professional capacity and to be highly skilled.

Recruitment of new staff and a growing skills gap have become major issues for the third sector. Some 25 per cent of employers report hard to fill vacancies, particularly within youth work, social care and health care. Around 40 per cent anticipate that recruitment will get more difficult over the next three years.

Some 30 per cent of employers reported under-skilled staff. Small organisations are more likely to report skills gaps. Over 25 per cent of employers reported skills gaps within marketing, strategic use of IT, legal knowledge and fundraising. 50 per cent identified that skills gaps were caused by a lack of time and funding for training within their organisation.

The knock on effect of the skills gap is an increase in the workload of other employees. Some 25 per cent of organisations use volunteers to cover the work, particularly within smaller organisations.