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PUBLICATION

Playing the Game

How class affects access to social sector careers

There are multiple issues with pre and early career phases in the social sector. These lay a foundation for classism, and other inequalities to develop. These issues are navigated differently by different groups of young people, depending on the resources and networks they have access to. Class and race each play a significant role in determining young people’s awareness of career opportunities in the social sector, and their access to these opportunities.  

Issues identified in early career planning and development in the social sector, which contribute to classism and other inequalities include:

  • absence of structured career pathways,

  • limited career information and guidance about working in the social sector

  • lack of designated entry level roles in the sector

  • inadequate training and support for hiring managers

 

The impact of these issues in pre and early career development in the social sector are navigated differently by different groups of young people, depending on the resources and networks they have access to. Class and race each play a significant role in determining young people’s awareness of career opportunities in the social sector, and their access to these opportunities.   These impacts include:

 

  • precarity in early career opportunities, including low and 'no' pay opportunities and short term contracts

  • inequity in pre-career work experience opportunities such as volunteering and internships

  • classism and racism impacting hiring and staff development 

Together these create inequitable access to social sector careers for working class young people.

 

Tackling the problems with entry level recruitment, and in particular the effects of class and race, will take a cross sector effort, with investment and leadership from funders, sector leaders, umbrella and infrastructural bodies, organisations and the workforce.  Recommendations in the report include investment by funders in summer work placements and entry level schemes in the social sector, as well as stronger accountability to grant receiving organisations around how they address classism; cross-sector coordination of entry routes to the sector and mentoring schemes for those in their early career; investment by social sector organisations in genuine entry level opportunities and in support both for those in their early careers and their managers.

About this research

This study explored two questions:

  • How does class impact early career planning and access in the social sector?

  • What interventions could reduce the impact of class inequality on early careers in the social sector?

 28 interviews were conducted across four cohorts: students and young people (8) and social sector professionals with: less than five years experience (5); five to ten years experience (8); more than ten years experience (7).


Taking into account professional’s past and current career experiences they represented: all main charity functions (e.g. fundraising, campaigns, policy etc.); all organisation levels; small, medium, large, major and super-major charities addressing the following social issues: criminal justice, health, environmental justice, housing, animal welfare, human rights, children and young people.

 

This research was conducted with funding gratefully received from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
 

To cite: Oliva, L. (2021). Playing the game: how class affects access to social sector careers. Room for Change: London.