The decline of skilled, craft-based manufacturing and the rise of the service sector means that twenty-first-century employers place a stronger emphasis on ‘character’ or ‘employability skills’, such as communication, self-direction and ability to work in a team. As a result, building ‘character’ in young people is moving up the political agenda – Michael Gove and Tristram Hunt have both recently called for it to be taught in schools. Yet research suggests that the ability of schools to instil ‘character’ is constrained, given continuted pressure to perform well across traditional academic subjects.

Produced with the support of The Scout Association, this report seeks to add to the emerging evidence base on the importance of building character in young people, and what it means for their employability. It uses a broad definition of ‘character’, avoiding disputes about which traits are the most imprtant. The report’s findings are based on several focus groups and interviews with Scouts, ex-Scouts, adult volunteers for the Scouts and employers.

The research finds that participation in Scouts provides a range of soft skills, opportunities and networks that improve young people’s employment prospects in later life; this was also true for adult volunteers for the Scouts. Job satisfaction and general wellbeing were the most widely cited benefit of employee volunteering. The report recommends that employers in the private and public sector should develop employee volunteering schemes linked to personal development stategies, and provide a range of incentives to encourage take-up – such as explicitly linking volunteering to promotion and reviews. Employers should also ensure that employee skills are matched up with the needs of broker organisations. The report also proposes several ideas that could make the link between Scouting and employability more explicit.