The voluntary sector is highly qualified and experienced
The voluntary sector workforce is highly educated, with over half (51%) of employees educated to degree level or higher (LFS). This is much higher than in the private sector, where less than a third (29%) of employees were educated to this level, but is similar to the public sector. The proportion of those with a degree increased in the voluntary sector, from 37% in 2010 to 51% in 2018. This reflects a general trend across sectors (LFS).
There is also evidence to suggest that those working in the voluntary sector are experienced in the work they do. The lack of relevant work experience was cited by only 15% of voluntary organisations as a reason for having vacancies that are hard to fill, which is slightly higher than in the public sector (11%) but much lower than the private sector (22%) (ESS).
Chart 1: Over half of the voluntary sector workforce is educated to degree level or higher
The importance that the voluntary sector places on qualifications and previous work experience may come with drawbacks
Half of voluntary organisations placed critical or significant importance on candidates having particular academic qualifications (eg GCSEs, A-levels or degrees), and 70% put critical or significant importance on employees having relevant work experience. This increased with the size of organisations, from 65% for those with 2–4 employees to 72% for those with 100 or more employees (ESS). Additionally, only 28% of voluntary organisations hired someone into their first job after leaving education, which is lower than in the private sector (31%) and much lower than in the public sector (42%) (EPS). While salary levels may also play a role in whether organisations are able to attract people at the start of their careers (see the section on pay and employment benefits for more information), these findings demonstrate the importance of previous experience when working in the voluntary sector.
The data also suggests that many employees in the voluntary sector have skills or qualifications that are not used by their employers. Over half (52%) of voluntary sector employers said that their staff have qualifications more advanced than required for their current role. This was slightly higher than in the public sector (51%) and much higher than in the private sector (41%). Similarly, when including skills, 43% of employers in the voluntary sector had staff with qualifications and skills that are more advanced than required for their current role. This was slightly higher than the proportion in the public sector (41%) and much higher than the private sector (33%) (ESS).
Chart 2: Over 4 in 10 employers had staff with skills or qualifications that are not used by employers
a measurement of occupations used as an indicator for socio-economic group