What are the skills of voluntary sector employees?

Level of education

  • Overall, voluntary sector employees are highly educated. Over half (51%) of the workforce in both the voluntary sector and public sector are qualified to degree le vel or equivalent.
  • This is much higher than in the private sector, where a third (29%) of employees are educated to degree level or higher. Overall, the qualification profile of private sector employees is more varied than those of the voluntary or public sectors.
  • Although voluntary sector and public sector employees have a similar profile in terms of qualification, public sector organisations reported the highest incidence of skills gap and voluntary sector organisations the lowest (see next section).

Over half of the voluntary sector workforce is educated to degree level or higher

Skills gaps

  • The voluntary sector has the lowest incidence of missing skills, with one in seven (14%) of organisations reporting having a skills gap. This includes missing skills from current staff as well as applicants.
  • The biggest skill gaps are self-management skills such as time and task management (67%), and management and leadership skills, for example, managing or motivating other staff (57%), and complex analytical skills (47%).
  • Of organisations who identified a training need among their employees, most (82%) had sought or received training or other help.
  • Other ways that voluntary organisations sought to address their skills gap were: improving their employment offer for example having a training plan (63%) or offering flexible working (43%), and having partnerships with other employers to develop skills in their workforce (24%).

Voluntary organisations reported the lowest incidence of skills gaps compared to organisations in other sectors

Over time

  • The proportion of organisations that reported having a skills gap in their applicants and current workforce has decreased over the years, from 16% to 14% between 2013 and 2017.
  • This decrease reflects a general trend across all sectors, although the level of skills gaps reported in the voluntary sector has decreased more rapidly than in other sectors.
  • The types of missing skills have changed over the years, with skills such as teamwork improving, and specialist skills needed to perform a role now more likely to be missing than in previous years.

The level of skills reported as missing has decreased in recent years

By size

  • More than a third (36%) of voluntary organisations with 250 or more employees have missing skills in their current workforce, compared to 5% of organisations with 2–4 employees. Larger organisations are more likely to have a skills gap than smaller organisations in the public and private sectors as well.
  • Larger organisations are more likely to have missing specialist skills or knowledge needed for the role (69% of organisations with 100–249 employees compared to 54% of organisations with 5–24 employees). Other skills such as operational skills and management and leadership skills are also more likely to be missing from bigger organisations.
  • When asked about why they had a skills gap in current staff, organisations with more than 250 employees were more likely to cite problems retaining staff (37%) than organisations with 5–24 employees (11%). Organisations with 100–249 employees were more likely to cite being unable to recruit staff with the required skills (32%) than organisations with 5–24 employees (20%).

Larger organisations are more likely to have a skills gap than smaller organisations

Training and apprenticeships

  • Providing training (71%) is the main action taken by organisations to address the skills gap, followed by more supervision of staff (62%), more staff appraisals (55%) and implementing a mentoring or buddy scheme (46%).
  • Voluntary organisations are less likely to increase their recruitment spend/activity to address their skills gap than organisations in other sectors (17% compared to 21% across the public and private sectors).
  • One in seven (14%) of voluntary organisations offers apprenticeships. The main reasons given for having an apprenticeship was that it is a good way to gain skilled employees (30%) and to give young people a chance in employment (24%).

Most employers seek to address a skills gap via training

More data and research

  • Download more Almanac data
  • Have a look at our recent blog on research into skills in small charities
  • We are currently conducting research into the skills gaps in the voluntary sector. This research briefing will be published in the summer 2019

Notes and definitions

The main sources of data used in our research are the Employer Skills Survey 2017 (ESS) and the Employer Perspectives Survey 2016 (EPS). They are conducted by the Department for Education and examine skills and training in employment. They are run across different sectors, including the voluntary sector, private sector and public sector. To find out more about the surveys, have a look at the methodology section.