Build up your skills
Brushing up on the skills your job demands is more than just a necessity – it’s the ideal way to discover your untapped potential too. Volunteering is another good way of gaining skills and experience if you are looking to get back into work.
How can I develop my skills?
A good place to start is to think about the skills you already have and what you’d like to develop.
A skills assessment could help you identify your skills. You can find skills assessment tools online from The Age Employment Network or the National Careers Service.
If you’re thinking of changing careers or have been out of work for a while, you may need new or updated skills or qualifications. You may also need to improve the basic skills that employers will be looking for, such as written English, maths or computer skills.
The National Careers Service has lots of advice on careers and learning. You can also call them on 0800 100 900 (freephone) for free personalised careers advice and guidance.
Volunteering is a great way to build up your skills and it may help you to identify types of jobs that you would enjoy.
Where can I find training courses?
- The National Careers Service has information about mainly career-focussed courses, great if you are looking for a career change or want to progress in your existing job.
- Your local council can give you details of courses for adult learners in your area.
- Age UK coordinates a network of computer training centres providing jargon-free training tailored to people in later life. If you’d like to learn more about computers and the internet see our computer training courses.
- Learn Direct has a network of local centres offering computer-based teaching. Their courses are mainly vocational skills, English, maths and business.
- The University of the Third Age (U3A) consists of local groups of older people (in their ‘third age’) whose members run informal courses, study groups and talks.
- Local libraries have details of local courses and computer facilities if you need them for the course.
Can I access funding to pay for training?
You can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to help fund a course at a college or training provider in England.
There are similar loan schemes available for those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
You start to pay this loan back when you finish your course and you’re earning over £21,000.
How can volunteering help me to develop my skills?
It can be rewarding in itself and benefit other individuals and your community. You could make new friends, discover new interests, and it may help you to identify types of jobs that you would enjoy.
Sometimes volunteering can lead to paid employment with the organisation you volunteer for, but you shouldn’t expect this as a matter of course. It's also looked upon favourably by prospective employers, so don't forget to include any volunteering experience on your CV.
Where can I volunteer?
Perhaps you are interested in becoming a volunteer but aren't sure what types of things you could do. There are lots of different volunteer roles available across the UK, in fact, there is something to suit everyone.
Here are some ideas:
- volunteering for a local group like the Scouts
- becoming a school governor
- joining the board of trustees of a charity
- conservation work in a community garden
- cooking for a soup kitchen
- helping in a charity shop
- volunteering for a campaigning organisation
- visiting patients in a local hospital
- helping at your local food bank
- volunteering at a museum gift shop or cafe
- leading tours at a National Trust property
- tutoring students with reading difficulties.
Will I get my expenses covered as a volunteer?
Organisations usually pay their volunteers’ expenses such as travel costs. As long as you are only paid expenses, volunteering should not affect your entitlement to social security benefits.
Is there an age limit to volunteering?
Some organisations have age limits for volunteers. This will usually be lawful as the age discrimination regulations do not cover volunteering. For example, a charity working with young people may feel that volunteer youth leaders should be aged from 18 to 25.
What should I do next?
Volunteer for Age UK
We have a lot of opportunities. You could volunteer in one of our charity shops, help out at the head office, or at your local Age UK with the activities they run.
Local volunteer opportunities
There are volunteer centres in England where you can go and chat to an advisor who can help you find local volunteering opportunities - supported by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). The website Do-It contains a database of volunteering opportunities all over the UK. You can search by location and by area of interest.