Can’t find work? Volunteer and you could get some unexpected bonuses

No housing costs, no utility bills, free training … volunteering can offer an attractive alternative route into the jobs market

More and more people are applying for all-expenses paid full-time voluntary work as a way to gain experience in a notoriously competitive jobs market, according to charities.

Rising unemployment, coupled with the increased cost of living, makes such placements, which often come with free board and lodgings, more appealing than ever. Long-term voluntary placements mean giving up a salary and, in many cases, long hours with no guarantee of paid employment at the end, but charities say this is not putting people off.

“Working as a full-time volunteer should not mean you’re out of pocket,” says Is Szoneberg, head of volunteering at Community Service Volunteers. “There are positions which offer board and living expenses paid. In times of economic uncertainty, it can work well for people to no longer have to pay their housing costs and utility bills.”

For those who have been made redundant and may otherwise have to claim benefits, full-time voluntary positions can even mean they will be better off, says Szoneberg.

In some cases, volunteers can live for free in anywhere from historical buildings on remote Scottish islands to picturesque properties in rural England. Some charities also have opportunities for families to live for free, while parents volunteer in the UK or overseas.

Mark Crosby, national volunteering manager for the National Trust, says:. “While we can’t always offer accommodation, occasionally volunteers can live in our properties and it can enable some people to take up the job more easily.”

Fiona Holman, 23, is one example. She graduated in 2011, with a Cambridge degree in German and Russian and now lives on site, working for the National Trust at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire in the marketing and events team while helping to and manage volunteers.

Read the full story on The Guardian’s website here