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Sharing retail skills

28 April 2023, Impact of Our Work

Save the Children supporting Youth Jobs Now! 

In 2022, Save the Children Op Shops began opening again after successive lockdowns due to the pandemic. A rapidly changing retail and volunteer landscape due to lockdowns, vaccination requirements and rises in costs of living has had a significant impact on volunteer-led retail teams.

This in turn has presented a huge opportunity for Save the Children’s retail team to work on innovative new paths for volunteering with us. 

“Diversifying our opportunities for volunteering post-pandemic has been a key focus in 2022,” says Carly Lahana, the National Volunteer Manager for retail. “We know that volunteering is fundamental to Australian society and over half the population gave their time last year, formally or informally, but many people face challenges in participating due to social failures in creating accessible opportunities.

Changing this reality is important for us as an organisation as we commit to changing the ways we work to better include all kinds of Australians.” 

As part of our diversification plan, Save the Children launched an innovative partnership with Youth Jobs Now (YJN!) in Victoria, a School Leaver Disability Employment Service. Part of The Bridge Employment, YJN! is an inclusive, holistic and highly interactive service aimed at young adults aged 18-24 who require support to find and keep a job.

Giving young people hands-on retail experience

 In the pilot for this program, a group of six young adults joined team member Michelle Perry at the Save the Children Op Shop in Dandenong for an eight-week program. The team worked every week in the shop and the warehouse to sort donations, merchandise product, manage the book library, work behind the counter, and assist customers. 

“I really enjoyed interacting with the young people in the Youth Jobs Now! program,” says Michelle, “no two weeks were the same and they always came with a positive attitude and a willingness to help.” 

It put a smile on my face to see how much they learnt during the time they were with us, it felt great to share our retail skills with these young people.


The pilot was an enormous success for both YJN! and Save The Children, with positive feedback from all involved. One YJN! participant Trent has remained on after the pilot as a permanent volunteer, using his skills he gained from a library degree in the bookstore. 

“I enjoyed folding clothes and taking the clothes out of the boxes. It was an experience, I like working with the people there,”
says Vanitta, a participant of the program.
Photo: Youth Jobs Now.

Other participants have been able to use their experience volunteering with Save the Children to build a resume that will help them enter the workforce. 

“Young people and disabled people often struggle to enter the workforce,” says Carly. “The circular logic of needing experience to work, but needing work to gain experience is a huge barrier. By partnering with these young people, we’re both expanding our volunteer pool, pioneering future volunteering practises that are more inclusive, and giving our volunteers skills and experience they can use to take into the workforce and into their future more generally.”

After a successful pilot in 2022, Save the Children and YJN! are continuing their partnership into 2023, and we’re excited to see how the program will continue to spark innovation in volunteering through the supporter engagement team. 

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