Good practice tips and a list of local networks that help residents into employment.

Factsheet 11. Supporting Volunteers Towards Employment

Many people volunteer because they want to gain the skills, workplace experience and confidence to move into paid employment or to change careers. It is therefore important for organisations to consider good practice and develop policies and processes that give volunteers the best chance of benefiting from volunteering. 

This factsheet provides some good practice tips as well as a list of some of the local networks and support providers in Tower Hamlets that offer services to help residents into employment.

Contents list



If you are looking to start or scale up your employment support for volunteers, think through the following issues:
  • What resources do you have? The amount of money and staff time you have will determine how much support you can offer. 
  • Where are the majority of your volunteers on the journey towards getting paid work? Some volunteers may need a lot of support, while others may be almost ‘job ready’.
  • Do you have internal job vacancies on a regular basis that volunteers can apply for? Or are you preparing volunteers to apply for jobs in other organisations?
  • Do you want to set some objectives or targets for this support? For example, your goal might be for 10% of your volunteers to move into paid work. If this is too ambitious, you might set an interim target such as supporting 20% of your volunteers to access further training, or to support 30% with developing their CV or making job applications.



Don’t try to do it all on your own! There are many local organisations that provide employability services to which you can signpost your volunteers. These range from careers advice, help with job search, preparing for interviews and even providing appropriate clothing. Find out more

Planning and designing volunteer roles

When designing each volunteer role, think about the skills that volunteers could develop through carrying out the role. Remember to include transferable skills, such as communication, problem solving, motivating people, organising, working to deadlines, being flexible and adaptable. Also think about the benefits to volunteers (these could include developing skills, but also other benefits such as access to networks).

Consider potential progression routes

When developing volunteer roles, consider whether there are more demanding volunteer positions that volunteers could subsequently move on to. These could offer the chance to develop different skills or take on more responsibility. For example, is there a volunteer team leader role (co-ordinating other volunteers) or a mentor role (mentoring newer or less confident volunteers)? 

You might not want to state these opportunities at the start, as this might raise expectations, but instead introduce them when you feel the volunteer is ready.

Matching volunteers to roles

Your recruitment process should carefully explore an individual’s reasons for volunteering. Below are some good practice tips and suggested questions to ask potential volunteers.
  • Application form:
Include a question such as “Why do you want to volunteer with (insert organisation name)?”  You may also want to include a prompt such as “This could be both what you hope to contribute as well as what you hope to gain from volunteering”.

Consider asking about previous ‘work and volunteering experience’ instead of just ‘work experience’
  • Interview:
Some questions to include might be: “What would you like to gain from volunteering?",  "What skills and experience would you like to gain and why?", "What training and support would you like to receive?”

Discuss any unrealistic expectations, ensuring that the volunteer is clear about the opportunities and support.
  • Induction:
During the induction, discuss what skills and experience the volunteer would you like to gain while volunteering with your organisation. 

Encourage volunteers to keep an eye out for different tasks and opportunities that they would like to get involved in, and suggest these to you.
Explain the supervision process, emphasising that supervision meetings will be an opportunity to review progress towards their own goals, and to identify learning and training opportunities.

Volunteers on welfare benefits

People are allowed to volunteer while claiming state benefits, including means-tested benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Incapacity Benefit, Income Support, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).  They can volunteer as many hours as they like while getting benefits as long as:
  1. the only money they get from volunteering is to cover out-of-pocket expenses, like travel costs
  2. they keep to the rules on the benefits they are receiving.
There are special rules for some claimants receiving Universal Credit on the number of hours they may volunteer each week (see below).
Volunteer roles must comply with the government’s definition of volunteering: "when you choose to give your time and energy to benefit other people without being paid for it". They can volunteer with any kind of organisation including charities, voluntary organisations or community groups, public-sector organisations, e.g. the NHS, police and other public services and social enterprises. 

Benefits claimants are required to notify their benefits adviser of their intention to start volunteering.  

Volunteering should be part of their agreed plan (e.g. JSA claimant commitment).
You must collect receipts from your volunteers and only reimburse exactly what they have spent. Volunteers on benefits should either keep copies of the receipts or you should be able to provide them with copies of the receipts on request. This is in case their benefits adviser wants to see evidence that any money they received was a reimbursement and not a payment.

Volunteering and Universal Credit

People can still volunteer if they are on Universal Credit as long as they also undertake activities, such as job searching, training or other requirements, identified by their Jobcentre Plus adviser, as part of their claimant commitment. 

If they are placed in the "all work-related requirements" category (i.e. they are expected to take "all reasonable action" to find a job or increase their hours or pay) then volunteering can count towards up to 50% of the time they are expected to be looking for a job. For example if they are required to spend 35 hours a week looking for a full-time job, half of this time (17.5 hours) can be spent volunteering. If they only volunteer five hours a week, then they will be required to spend 30 hours looking for work.  If they are looking for part-time work, e.g. 16 hours a week, they can volunteer for up to eight hours (50% of 16 hours) and spend the rest of the time looking for work.
If they are in the "no requirements", "work-focussed interview" or "work preparation" categories then the above restrictions on hours do not apply.
Further information on volunteering while on benefits can be found here on NCVO website.

Managing expectations

It is vital to set realistic expectations of what the volunteer role offers in terms of the skills and experience the volunteer could gain. Over-promising can lead to disappointed volunteers who leave with a negative impression of your organisation. Your role descriptions should clearly describe the tasks that the volunteer will carry out. Of course the role may develop and expand later after the volunteer has started.
Some volunteers could be under the impression that they will automatically be offered a paid job after volunteering for a few months, so you need to be clear from the outset about any separate recruitment processes that your organisation has for paid roles. This will help manage expectations.

Don’t promise paid work

Any promise of a contract or paid work in the future might mean that a volunteer could be classed as an employee or worker, rather than a volunteer. Being classed as an employee or worker gives them certain employment rights, such as being due the minimum wage. This case study illustrates:
“Amanda is a unpaid intern at a design company. She’s been promised that she’ll be taken on as an employee after 3 months. This counts as a reward, so she must be paid at least the minimum wage for the whole time she spends at the company”.  Read more.

Methods of support

Below are some ways of supporting your volunteers to get paid work. The methods you choose will depend on the level and needs of the volunteer and the time and resources you have to support the volunteer.
  • Writing or updating their CV: You could support them to use the National Careers Service (NCS) CV Builder, which offers a step by step guide to creating a CV. Read more.
  • Support with considering their skills and interests in relation to work: The NCS Skills Health Check Tools are a set of online questionnaires with a report. They are designed to give you information about your skills, interests and motivations in the workplace. The tools help you to think about the kinds of jobs that might be best for you in future. Find out more.
  • Job search: supporting them to register on relevant websites, or with specialist recruitment agencies.
  • Training: provide volunteers with relevant training. However, to avoid the risk of volunteers being classed as employees, training offered should always be linked to the role that the person is carrying out, rather than a general perk or enticement to volunteer.
  • Linking them with local employment networks: See the appendix to this factsheet for a list of local organisations and networks in Tower Hamlets and beyond that provide employment related support.
  • References: providing references for volunteers can be an important aspect of supporting them into employment.  You might want to have a policy on how long you should know a volunteer before providing a reference for them, e.g. 3 months or a certain number of volunteering sessions.  Bear in mind that volunteers sometimes contact organisations for a reference a long time after leaving a volunteering role, so it’s sensible to keep good accessible records.


Capture evidence of impact and progress

It is important to capture the impact of your work in supporting volunteers into employment. This might be necessary to justify the time and money spent on this, or to build the evidence needed to seek future funding. It can also be useful to have some evidence to encourage unemployed people to volunteer with your organisation. Here are some examples of information you might want to capture, but remember that you should tailor this according to what you are trying to achieve with your volunteers.
  • the skills and confidence that volunteers develop. Capture their level before volunteering (at induction), during volunteering (at supervision) and after volunteering (through exit interviews).
  • training that volunteers access while volunteering. You might consider keeping a simple training and progression log for each volunteer to keep a record of training completed and competencies. This can also help when you are writing references.
  • the support you provide them around gaining employment.
  • the number of volunteers who move into paid work. It may be useful to record:
  • whether the work is part-time or full-time
  • whether the work is within your organisation or with other organisations
  • which field the work is in (for example is it related to the volunteering they were doing)
  • some case studies of volunteers who got jobs, and how volunteering and support from your organisation helped them with this.


Supporting staff

If staff that supervise volunteers are expected to support their volunteers towards employment, you might consider providing them with some support. This could include:
  • Sharing this factsheet with them
  • Being available to answer questions and offer support
  • Including a section on ‘employment support’ in your Volunteer Supervisors’ Pack (if you have one)
  • Offering a session on ‘employment support for volunteers’ as part of induction for new staff or training for staff that are new to supervising volunteers
  • If there is interest, start an informal network of staff who provide employment support to volunteers, where they can share information, successes and challenges.


Local networks and support providers in Tower Hamlets

There are a large number of employment support projects in Tower Hamlets. This list captures some of them. If you know of organisations that should be included on this list, or if any of the details on the list are incorrect, please email The details on this list are correct as of 5 July 2016.

Tower Hamlets Careers Service

For young people aged 16-20 or up to 25 with Special Educational Needs) who are resident in Tower Hamlets (they cannot support University Students).
• One-to-one careers guidance; free careers leaflets/information
• help with their CV and preparation for interviews
• advice about Higher Education choices and issues e.g. finance etc.
•  job/apprenticeship, training and college opportunity details
• access to internet for careers information and research
• college and university prospectuses
• local and national job market trends information
• information on a range of personal, health and social matters e.g. benefits, housing, voluntary work and local leisure activities.

Drop-in service Monday to Friday 1pm - 5pm or call to book an appointment. Tower Hamlets Careers Centre, 35 Bow Road, London E3 2AD
Tel: 020 7364 1401  
or visit the website.

Idea Store Learning

COBRA. The 'Business Opportunity Profiles' are ideal for the job seeker and for interview preparation, with detailed information on qualifications and skills, market and trading issues and useful contacts. COBRA can be accessed at local Idea Store libraries or from home. Read more.

Universal Skills. Employability instant self-assessments for job seekers. Read more.

• Assess skills in areas vital to achieving and sustaining employment such as time management, communication, motivation and problem solving.
• Step-by-step guide to creating a Jobmatch account, including setting up a profile, searching for jobs and creating a CV.
• Help with gaining or improving the skills needed for job hunting, including good customer skills, job interview preparation and how to cope with the change of starting a new job.
• Find out about Universal Credit, eligibility, how to create an account and how to make a claim.

Directory of courses in Tower Hamlets
A wide range of courses including vocational (e.g. IT and Computing, Business and Finance, Construction, Foundation Skills etc)

Directory of organisations in Tower Hamlets
You can search the Business and Employment category or you can also register your group or organisation. Find out more.
Visit the website.

Idea Store Employment Advice

Job Support Sessions. The sessions are delivered in partnership with Krypton Training Ltd, a specialist Careers Advice and Employment Support service provider. They provide help with skills needed to get back to work, including creation of CVs and covering letters and support with application forms and interview technique.

For more information or to book an appointment contact 020 7375 3843 or email
• Mondays and Wednesdays 10am-5pm, Idea Store Whitechapel  
• 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month, 10am-5pm, Idea Store Bow
• 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, 10am-5pm, Idea Store Chrisp Street
• 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month, 10am-5pm, Idea Store Watney Market
• 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, 10am-5pm, Idea Store Canary Wharf
Job Club. Offers free advice on:
• Getting back into work
• Finding suitable training courses
• Careers and Benefits advice
• Developing your employability skills
• CV writing and application form writing
• Searching for a job and interview techniques

Tuesdays 10.30am-4pm, term-time only, Cubitt Town Library
Every Wednesday 9.30am-12.30pm, Idea Store Whitechapel.
Visit the website

Skillsmatch Employment Service

Free advice on training, upgrading skills and job applications for Tower Hamlets residents. With detailed one to one assessment and action planning and support in creating or updating a CV, completing a job application form and interview preparation.  

Drop-in service, no need to book an appointment
• Mondays, 1pm-5m, Idea Store Chrisp Street, Lab 1, First Floor
• Tuesdays, 9am-1pm and Thursdays, 1pm-5pm, Idea Store Whitechapel, Ground Floor Foyer

Skillsmatch, 55 Upper Bank Street, London E14 5GR
Tel: 020 7364 3727

or visit the website.

Bromley by Bow Centre

The National Careers Service offers impartial careers guidance to people aged 19 and over. The BBBC deliver this service locally through their Local People Local Jobs programme, which offers:  

• Careers advice
• Job search and access to vacancies
• Skills analysis
• Individual action plan and goal setting
• Access to welfare and benefits advice
• Support with CV writing and application forms
• Interview skills
• Health, wellbeing and disability advice
• Vocational training and work placements
• Access to a range of motivational and support networks
• An employer liaison programme, working with employers to offer work experience and volunteer placements alongside permanent positions.

To make an appointment or to speak to an employment advisor call 020 8709 9748. Shop fronts are the Bromley by Bow Centre, Linc Centre and the Teviot Centre. Find out more.


account3’s qualified and experienced career advisers provide support to people who have never worked or have been unemployed for some time. Staff on the project work together with a number of employment partners and services to support clients in finding the right jobs and training opportunities.

They provide:
• Initial assessment
• Career advice and guidance
• Training advice - a pathway to employment
• Job search
• Personal implementation plan
• CV preparation
• Support with job application forms
• Mock interview techniques
This service is provided by appointments only Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm. For more information or to book an appointment contact
or visit the website.

JET at the Tower Project

The Tower Project’s Job Enterprise and Training Service provides specialist supported employment services for disabled people and people with long term health conditions.

Support services include:
• Initial assessments
• Action planning
• CV building
• Job searching and job applications
• Interview skills and confidence building
• Training in Systematic job coaching

For more information, call 020 8980 3500, email or to register your interest in person or to refer on someone’s behalf visit Tower Project between 9am–5pm

Tower Project, Job, Enterprise & Training service, Candy Wharf Unit 2, 22-23 Copperfield Road, London E3 4RL. Visit the website.

EDITH (Employing Deaf and Disabled people in Tower Hamlets)

This programme is delivered by Real and deafPLUS.  It provides support to anyone living, working or studying in Tower Hamlets who is Deaf, disabled or who has a long-term health condition.

They provide:
• Help to work out a tailored package of support
• Provide new experience and skills, to get more job-ready
• Support to build their CV, and prepare job applications
• Support disabled people and potential employers through interview processes
• Give support using BSL, or meeting other access needs.
Email or visit the website

Future Ambitions (Scope)

Future Ambitions is a brand new service aimed at supporting young disabled people aged 16 to 25 in Hackney, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets into long term sustainable employment. The service is tailored to the individual, providing each customer with one-to-one support from a specialist Employment Advisor to understand their career goals and aspirations and how to achieve them.

They offer:
• bespoke employment workshops
• valuable work experience
• interview preparation skills
• employment opportunities  
• ongoing support to both customer and employer
Candidates must complete an online application to register interest

Call 07807 799928, email
or visit the website.


Apprenticeships are government funded work-based training programmes for people aged 16 and over. They combine on the job training with nationally recognised qualifications. Apprentices earn a salary which must be at least the minimum wage rate for an apprentice which is currently £3.30 per hour. Apprenticeships come in different levels from intermediate and advanced to degree level and will last a minimum of 12 months, but depending on the qualification they may take longer.

Information on apprenticeships in Tower Hamlets.
General information about apprenticeships
Search for an apprenticeship in England

City Gateway

Works with Young People aged 14-24 and women of all ages.  

• Apprenticeships in local companies/organisations.  Apprentices study towards NVQ Level 2/3 in Business Administration or NVQ Level 2/3 in Customer Service.  
• Training: offers courses in Business Administration, Childcare, Customer Service, IT and Sport Fitness
• Women’s Programmes:  enables local women to gain independence, access employment and integrate better in their communities by developing skills and confidence.
• Run drop-in activities and courses in Poplar, Stepney and on the Isle of Dogs, offering study opportunities from ESOL to vocational courses and apprenticeships. Visit the website.

Dress for Success

Helps women transition back into paid employment, by firstly giving them a professional outfit, and then one-to-one interview training.  

The Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane (148 Clock Tower), London E16QL. Visit the website.

Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network

THCAN is a partnership of local advice centres that provide free advice and representation for TH residents in areas of social welfare law. Advice topics include welfare benefits, tax credits, housing, money and debt problems and employment.

THCAN also runs the Tower Hamlets Trainee Advice Work Project, where local people can train to become an advice worker. Visit the website.

Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets (VCTH)

If you cannot provide your volunteers with opportunities that suit their needs, you can signpost them to VCTH.  We publicise  a wide range of volunteering opportunities in voluntary and public sector organisations across Tower Hamlets on our website. Volunteers can apply for roles  via the website. We also offer a confidential appointment service for people interested in volunteering to gain information and advice about the volunteering opportunities. VCTH advertises paid jobs in volunteer management. Email or visit the website.

Tower Hamlets CVS

Training and Employment Forum. The Forum is an independent organisation of agencies that support the development and delivery of employment and enterprise support initiatives in Tower Hamlets. Read more.

Tower Hamlets Employment and Skills Practitioners Network. Find out more.

Directory of voluntary and community sector organisations working in Tower Hamlets. Read more.

Jobs noticeboard. Employment opportunities in Tower Hamlets organisations. Read more.

Genesis Housing Association

Genesis Housing Association runs a successful Volunteer into Employment programme. Between April 2015 and March 2016, 79 Genesis residents were successfully placed into employment, with one third of jobs being within Genesis itself and the remainder with external employers.
Genesis is keen to share their successful model with other organisations. The model includes: Linking volunteers to successful employment outcomes; providing coaching and mentoring; working with vulnerable residents; training staff and volunteers; evaluating impact and improved wellbeing measures; providing volunteers with coordinating roles; and increasing community engagement.

The support from Genesis could take many forms including a simple briefing, tailored training for your staff or providing sample documents and templates.  For further information contact Richard Sharp, Volunteer Manager, on or phone 020 8900 4775.


ELATT provides specialist support for deprived communities in East London and beyond.

Services include:
• FREE courses in Web Design and Development, IT Systems Support, Business Administration and Office Skills
• English language courses: speaking, listening, reading and writing skills from Entry Level to Level 2.
• apprenticeships in Web Design, Software Development, IT Networking and Support, Business Administration and Office Applications. Their partners include high profile blue-chip companies such as Morgan Stanley
• volunteering and work experience schemes
They also provide students with welfare and debt advice and access to travel and childcare costs (restrictions apply). Visit the website.

The Daily Job seeker

The daily jobseeker is a free source of job search advice that’s updated daily and available to everyone. Find out more.

Voluntary / public sector job sites

Jobs at Tower Hamlets Council
Local NHS jobs
Produced in July 2016

Follow on Twitter   Friend on Facebook   Forward to Friend 
Copyright © 2016 Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets, All rights reserved.
unsubscribe from this list   update subscription preferences 

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets · Norvin House · 45-55 Commercial Street · London, Eng E1 6BD · United Kingdom

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp