Setting the scene: The voluntary sector workforce

To examine skills in the voluntary sector, it is useful to first look at the make-up of the sector’s workforce. As of June 2018, the voluntary sector had 865,916 employees, which represents around 3% of the total UK workforce. The number of people working in the voluntary sector has grown by 11% since 2010, although it dropped slightly in the last year (LFS).

The majority of voluntary sector employees were women (67%) and more likely to be older in comparison with other sectors: 38% were aged 50 or over compared to 35% in the public sector and 30% in the private sector. Those aged 16–34 years old represented under a third of the total workforce (29%), however their number has increased by 3% since June 2017. While the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees in the private and public sector (both at 12%) remained slightly lower than the 13% in the UK population (2011 census), in the voluntary sector it was distinctly lower at just 9% (LFS).

In terms of working patterns and employment contracts, levels of part-time working were higher in the voluntary sector (37%) than other sectors (25% and 28% for private and public sectors respectively). Voluntary sector employees were also less likely to be on a permanent contact than in other sectors: 9% of the voluntary sector were employed on a temporary contract compared to 7% of the public sector and 4% of the private sector (LFS). These types of working patterns and contracts may exclude or have a greater impact on those with fewer resources, however, more research is needed on this.

Table 1: The voluntary sector is predominantly made up of female workers