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Future Skills for the Third Sector (FUTUR3)

Summary of the Project

The objective of the FUTUR3 project is to help third-sector employers, employees and educational organisations that train professionals in the field to identify future skills needs in the sector and to prepare for them. Here the third sector refers to civil society organisations like associations, NGOs, trusts or foundations that are non profit. This project focuses on organisations with volunteering activities, and the main target group is professionals working with volunteers: volunteer managers, coordinators and so on.

Throughout Europe, third-sector employees’ educational and employment backgrounds are diverse. E.g. in Finland employees performing similar tasks with volunteers have a wide educational background ranging from vocational qualifications to research degrees. Also differences between EU Member States are vast, as the third sector is more structured in some countries than others. Occupational standards for professionals working with volunteers have been developed in some countries (e.g. the UK), but in most countries they do not exist. In some countries occupational standards are more directly linked with educational qualifications than in others.

Many studies from the 2000s and the 2010s have emphasised the growing importance of the third sector as an employer in Europe. For instance, In Portugal, between 1997 and 2007 the number of employees in the sector had grown by around one third. This has been due to, for instance, a reorganisation of welfare services, which places growing pressures on the sector to provide effective professional services and for its HR capacities. This also means the greater involvement of volunteers. These factors make knowledge management in the sector challenging as the need for growing professionalisation has not in all cases been met by professional development opportunities or codified standards that display the level of professionalism required of personnel.

Along with the growing complexity of volunteering, changes in service structures create urgent needs to update the competences of personnel. Employees in the sector believe that the most pressing future skills needs concern ICTs and social media, cooperation with a range of partners and dealing with uncertainty in e.g. funding and volunteering. Universities, VET centres, and other educational institutions need information on future skills needs to prepare students for employment in the third sector. Many employees in the sector work in the field of inclusion (poverty, unemployment, migrants, disability, etc.). Focusing on future skills needs will help to modernise the sector as an employer, in line with the Europe 2020 strategy on inclusive growth. A skilful workforce is able to support volunteers in tackling the challenges of exclusion.

By engaging stakeholders and experts, the FUTUR3 project shall address these needs. Through its benchmarking and peer learning activities, it offers a model for foresight activities for effective collaboration and capacity-building. It aims to increase understanding of skills needs in the third sector on a European level and to discuss them from a future perspective. The project will discuss education-work life correspondence in this field of employment. The educational and professional diversity of the European third sector calls for a cross-national benchmarking process to better understand the European situation and inter-country differences and to map out common future needs. This requires a transnational project in order to ensure insight, cultural sensitivity and engagement of various stakeholders.

FUTUR3 aims to

  • Increase knowledge about the educational paths, qualifications and careers of volunteer managers and similar third-sector professionals in Europe.
  • Increase understanding about future skills needs in the third sector to help stakeholders, especially educational institutions and third-sector organisations, to manage and respond to these needs.
  • Increase the ability of European third-sector organisations to cooperate on volunteering issues.

Methods for achieving these results:

  • Benchmarking process to collect and publish information about employment and work-education correspondence in 10 countries, incorporating discussions with third-sector and futures specialists in order to gain insight about the current situation and future needs of the sector. This will result in a downloadable report.
  • Peer learning model tested locally by e.g. volunteer managers. It includes activities that prepare third-sector employees to identify skills gaps and make joint plans for professional development that meets future needs.
  • General awareness-raising.

Duration of the project: 24 months (1st September, 2015 – 31st August, 2015)

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