Volunteering Matters CE and president of Volonteurope, Oonagh Aitken, gave her update of the new Erasmus+ Project ‘Job Bridge’.

It may not be the most inventive of project titles, but Job Bridge is a truly exciting new Erasmus + project involving eight European partners from Germany, France, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Belgium and the UK. One that highlights the power and potential of not just volunteering, but of partnership working across Europe, at a time when it is arguably most needed.

The Job Bridge project centres on pathways to employment for volunteers – and how to validate their skills and experience to be as attractive as possible to employers.  Volunteering is a really great way for people to participate in their community and also helps them to gain employability skills but it is also true that employers often find this sort of experience hard to judge and fully appreciate when they are recruiting and selecting candidates for jobs. Although the main purpose of the project finding and strengthening pathways to employment for volunteers, it will be useful for all volunteers who want to record and have their skills validated.

We expect to see a number of outcomes from the project – including a research report,  a training programme for volunteer managers and a series of pilots to applying the validation process.

Of course, the involvement of employers will be key to the success of the project.  We will need to fully understand what employers are looking for and what skills, experiences and competencies they consider most important when they recruit.  Volunteering Matters also hopes to involve its considerable network of Employee Volunteering (EV) contacts in the UK as well as any EV schemes developed by our Volonteurope parters.

Volunteering Matters and Volunteurope will of course contribute to all the outcomes planned for the project, but we will be taking the lead in organising pilots where volunteers and volunteer managers will apply the recording and validation process.  We will be calling not only on our own programmes in the UK but on our partners in the Volonteurope network to contribute to the pilots.  We also want to ensure that the project results and outcomes are disseminated as widely as possible. Again, we will be calling on Volonteurope partners as well as all our contacts across the volunteering world in the UK and beyond.

The project partners represent a wide range of sectors; from the Life Long Learning Platform and its wide network of learning organisations across Europe, the Collegi Universitari in Italy which promotes social and academic programmes through University Halls of Residence, the Camera de Caceres which assists SMEs in a particular part of Extremadura, Spain, to La ligue de l’enseignement, France’s foremost informal learning organisation. As well as further consultancies in Germany and Bulgaria.  It should make for extremely rich knowledge,  discussions and productive work across the project.

I am personally really excited about the possibilities Job Bridge will bring to Volunteering Matters, the NNVIA network in the UK and Volonteurope. It is a unique opportunity to develop a recognised hierarchy of the skills and competences gained through volunteering, and which can be recognised employers across the EU and beyond. At a time of Brexit turmoil, we hope this project is a positive beacon for the power of continued collaboration across the various European nations, to the benefit of those who need it most.