Volunteering plays an indispensable and capital role in lifelong learning. There, volunteers are parents, learners or educators of all ages willing to improve education and training systems. Volunteering is an expression of active citizenship that enriches democracy and contributes to develop solidarity and social cohesion, a value which is not only in great need in the current economic and social climate, but also one upon which the European Union has been built.
Volunteering is freely given, but not cost free – it needs and deserves targeted support from all stakeholders – volunteer organisations, government at all levels, businesses and an enabling policy environment including a volunteering infrastructure. Volunteering should not be instrumentalised nor used to replace paid work notably in public services and care systems.
Volunteering enables volunteers to develop skills and competencies for personal, social and civic development that one could not have gained in traditional or professional systems. However, today these competences are seldom recognised by formal education, companies or institutions. Volunteers need to be supported if they express the wish to have the knowledge and skills acquired through volunteering periods recognised and validated. In this sense, educational providers have a specific role to play in terms of guidance and training.