Can volunteering help blind young people get work?
Article submitted by Eurodesk UK Partner Royal Society for Blind Children.
According to Eurostat it is estimated that unemployment has fallen overall in the EU states from a year ago. However, this trend is not ringing true for blind people. In the UK, unemployment amongst blind and partially sighted people still remains alarmingly high. 90% of young people with a vision impairment will not work for more than six months in their lifetime, and 9 out of 10 employers feel hiring blind people is either difficult or impossible. According to the Department of Work and Pensions, less than half of disabled people (48%) are in employment, compared to 80% of the non-disabled population. The situation for blind and partially sighted people is even worse with just 25% (of those who are of working age) in employment (RNIB Sight Loss Data 2016).
So what can blind young people do to try and make themselves more employable?
Volunteering is a great way to improve your chances of getting hired
According to an NCVO survey, over a million more young people were volunteering in 2015 than in 2010, and with good reason. Volunteering can be a great way to improve work experience and self-confidence for those looking for work. Alex Man is registered blind and he joined an employability programme run by the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC). He got a non-paid work placement as part of the programme, working in the Transport Demand Management team at Transport for London. Alex had never worked for a big corporate company before and he said the experience was invaluable in helping him find work soon after. “I was there doing fact sheets, attending meetings, and also dealing with their social media page,” he says. “Understanding sign off procedures and learning organisational skills has all been very useful in helping secure my latest job and perform to a high standard.”
Volunteering can make you happy
Volunteering can also be very fulfilling socially and emotionally. Dami is vision impaired and attended RSBC Social and Peer groups when he was younger. After completing university, he has now returned to the charity as a volunteer. “Having also been a member of the social groups, I know the blind young members very well and can relate to them, which makes the volunteering even more special.”
How to get voluntary work if you are vision impaired
At the moment, blind people looking to volunteer can turn to schemes like the European Voluntary Service which offers disabled young people between the ages of 17-30 voluntary opportunities in Europe.
At the moment, blind people looking to volunteer can turn to schemes like the RSBC Employability Programme, which exist to try and overcome these barriers. The programme provides young people with the skills they need to get job ready and even matches participants with voluntary work placements to boost their experience, skills, and confidence.
RSBC can help you gain voluntary work placements
As part of the Employability programme, we will work with you on a one-to-one basis to identify your needs, and find a suitable work placement for you and your ambitions. The team will liaise with employers to ensure vision impaired candidates’ access requirements are met, which can make the process of finding a voluntary job far less stressful, and will help you make the most of your placement. In addition to this, RSBC is also working to change employers’ perceptions about vision impaired young people in the workplace thanks to funding from Erasmus+. RSBC is working alongside European organisations to develop effective models of working with employers to support them to employ more disadvantaged young people, including those who are vision impaired, otherwise disabled, or disadvantaged.