Unemployment can be hard and undignified. Many people find it tough to ask for support, but need to apply for Job Seeker’s Allowance to see them through.
Claimant figures have fallen, largely due to more people taking part-time jobs and a reduction in the number of short-term unemployed. Long-term job seekers are still in limbo; classed as unemployable and pressured by the government to get into work, training or do community service.
What help does the modern Job Centre really offer to get you back into work? Are there any benefits to choosing the Job Centre over an online Job Board?
The Department for Work and Pensions aims ‘to support [people] into work through the benefits system and job search support’, but real-life job seekers don’t feel that they are receiving this service.
Sian, a redundant administrator at the Surbiton office, said: “My advisor knows I like films so just talks about films”.
Dan at Forest Hill had a similar exchange: “My ‘advisor’ would talk at me for 20 minutes about how much she hated her job. One time she talked at me about her Christmas plans for the whole session and then signed me off when her next appointment arrived”.
An advisor in Clapham told me that the Job Centre no longer funds career-specific training or course subsidies. She said they only provide business administration or basic computer skills and that if I took an unpaid internship as a chance to train, I would be signed off.
Sian was more successful and got an appointment at their CV Clinic, but found it uninspiring: “50 minutes of them writing on my CV and then they just gave me a website link to change it myself”.
Dan said: “I’m sure they are great at teaching you ‘soft’ literacy skills, but as soon you want to do something outside of the high street or factory work they are not helpful at all!”
Advice and training opportunities are poor. The Job Centre’s prime function is to connect people with job vacancies, but the system is over stretched and cannot cater for all. Dan, an art lecturer and film maker, said: “They found me a job teaching geography at a secondary school, because it says ‘lecturer’ on my CV”.
Job Centre computers are redundant. The service has gone online, leaving their office dotted with unused machines. Seekers must hunt from home, assuming they are able to, using Universal Job Search – a job board run by Monster Jobs and, effectively, the same tool. The Job Centre can use this site to track how job seekers are using it and what applications they have submitted.
In summary, it seems that advisors no longer need to do any work. Tips and tailoring are on one website, job vacancies are on another and, if you need guidance, you are put on a course. Their role is to collect your signature for your benefits claim but when it comes to the dreaded job hunt, you are on your own.
Don’t be disheartened! We are back to square one and have discovered that the Job Centre is actually just a Job Board, but there a lot of difference between sites, so be sure to use the ones which best fit you.
If you are committed to finding a job, get informed. Check out as many job sites as possible and target the ones who specialise in the industries that you want. The Job Centre may be able to help you find work as a teacher or a shop assistant, but could struggle if your career is in a niche market or a creative industry.
Speak to the consultants. Unlike Job Centre advisors, recruitment consultants have literally hundreds and thousands of vacancies flying across their desks each week. They read a multitude of CVs and know what you need to get your foot in the door. Quality consultants will discuss your CV and work experience with you to draw out the best parts, helping you sell yourself. If they don’t believe you have the necessary skills or experience, they can recommend a route to success.
Of course, recruiters cannot provide free training for you, but then neither can the Job Centre. What they can do is find you junior roles, temporary jobs or work experience to boost your CV, get you earning and back in the working environment.
Ceri Jones | Strike Jobs Journalist | 16/10/2013