Project “Who Needs it?!”. Skills-based volunteering brings real life experience to Lithuanian schools
How to build a nationwide corporate skills-based volunteering program to leverage competences in the society for high social impact in the area of youth education.
Lithuania has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the EU (33% in 2011). Several main reasons for that are: lack of any qualification and work experience and increasing school drop-out rate; low quality of education due to theoretical nature of studies; mismatch between education and labour market demands due to the shift in preferred area of study from STEM subjects toward social sciences; imbalance between university and vocational training graduates; lack of employability skills among young people. Opportunities for work are shrinking resulting in increased emigration of young people in search of work (50% of emigrants). At the same time companies struggle to find skilled professionals, especially in the field of technologies.
It is essential to start as early as in school to motivate young people to seek education and help them make better informed choices about their future work life, however, teachers and parents are not capable to provide up-to-date information on existing and emerging areas and careers on their own. The solution lies in more active cooperation between schools and different organizations (business, state and NGO alike). With the help of professionals from different areas students could learn how organizations function and create value, what education and skills are needed in the today’s workplace, how to manage teams, meetings, projects or systems and how to plan their own career. It is apparent that with 50.000 school graduates each year one or several meetings with people from the "work world" are not enough. They must become an integrated part of the educational process spanning from job shadowing to company visits, from visiting guests in lessons to long-term interdisciplinary project-based learning opportunities.
To accelerate sharing of real life knowledge and experience two international companies operating in Lithuania – telecommunications company Omnitel and bank Swedbank – initiated a skills-based volunteering project "Who Needs it?!" (www.kamtoreikia.lt) in 2011 that allows professionals easily connect to school communities and carry out projects together with teachers and students. In addition to an interactive online matchmaking portal the project provides support to volunteers in companies: trainings, consultations how to create in-company employee skill based volunteering programs, and networking events. The success of the program lies in the ability to engage a wide range of professionals from different stakeholder groups: state institutions, companies, schools, NGOs, higher education and vocational institutions, and employ innovative IT solutions to connect people in real life.
First results since the launch of the online platform on 1 Feb 2012 have been promising: within 2.5 months 285 teachers from 192 schools and 194 professionals from 43 organizations joined the project; there are currently 92 outstanding projects while over 50 have already been completed and 120 in progress. The amount of professionals will start to grow faster within the coming months with the launch of online training and ongoing meetings with companies willing to join.
The project is about the power of change agents in today's world where technology enables us to cross boundaries and leverage an idea on a national or even global scale. It's also about the collective power of people to change systems and help each other grow (The project aims to accelerate the change in schools towards real-life-based learning, refocusing from knowledge building to skill development, from teacher-centered to student-centered learning process.)
It is also about strengthening self-confidence in people. We help them believe they have something valuable to share and can make an impact in their community.
It's about connecting people in communities, changing stereotypes and building trust in each other. Teachers often discourage children to go into business and business people tend to think teachers are old-fashioned and don't care about their students. Real meetings help to vanish those stereotypes.