An exploration into the importance of employability as a motivation for student volunteers and an assessment of its impact on long-term retention within the UK
Volunteering plays a hugely important role in society, not only in terms of its economic and financial impact, but also for its ability to improve the mental health and wellness of volunteers and those in need. This study seeks to understand the motivations of students, specifically those aged between 18 and 25, to assess how important employability is when deciding to volunteer. Attention is also given to the importance and value of retention strategies to encourage student volunteers to remain in their roles, assessed from the student’s perspective. A considerable amount of the existing literature focusses on general volunteer motivations and often fails to address the specific motivations of students. What is currently missing from the research is a developed understanding of what motivates students and what can be done to retain them in the long-term. This gap will be explored with attention paid to exploring employability as a motivation. The literature review examines the existing body of literature and contributes to the creation of a number of themes, including increased involvement of institutional bodies and the changing nature of student volunteering, to aid in the achievement of the aim and objectives of the study. The aim of this study is to investigate the relevance of employability as a motivation for student volunteering and to explore any potential problems relating to the long-term retention of students. In addition to the aim, the following objectives were created to aid the study: • To uncover how important employability is to students when deciding to volunteer • To determine whether the nature of student volunteering poses any problems for retention • To establish which potential retention strategies are of the most value to students. The study adopted a quantitative methodology with an online questionnaire chosen as the data collection instrument. The questionnaire was distributed on social media platforms and received a total of 60 responses. The key findings of the study, first and foremost, confirmed that students do undertake volunteering in order to increase employability. However, the data also displayed a number of variances from the claims found within the literature. Such variances include how highly students value helping their community, a strong desire to get involved with volunteering at a young age and that training appears to be of less value than first thought. These findings demonstrate clear inconsistencies from the claims within the existing body of literature, thus, further research is required to fully understand the new developments. The future recommendations that were made include increasing the size of the study to facilitate generalisation to the population and diversification of the sample. Further, it is recommended that the target population is expanded to include a wider range of 18- to 25- year-olds, as opposed to only university attendees and that the topic is explored with consideration for the volunteer organisation’s perspective in order to understand their position.