Yesterday, I went to the Jobcentre. It was my first meeting with an advisor, scheduled for 10.20 am. You go up the stairs, say “alright” to the security guard and the person on the desk tells you to have a seat on the sofas. While you wait there, you look at the signs on the wall.
‘Abuse will not be tolerated’
‘People behaving violently will be prosecuted’
You wait a bit more. Maybe flick through the meagre offerings on the little table in the middle. An ‘advisor’ calls you over, and the fun and games begin.
I explain my situation. I am doing a full time unpaid internship at the moment, but am still technically unemployed and have no income. Can I still have some of Mr Osborne’s money to help me along please?
No, according to the computer. As I am in an office full time, supposedly I can’t be actively looking for work. Apparently the Department for Work and Pensions is a bit slower than we all originally thought. It does not seem to have realised that a large proportion of job searches are done on the internet, in places such as THEIR OWN WEBSITE, which can be accessed any time, including the evenings. Still, bureaucracy prevails, and despite the fact that I am doing the opposite to just sitting on my arse, my amended claim would still need to be checked by Jobcentre HQ at Cosham, which would be another couple of weeks. I would also need to spend more time out of my internship to go for some more meetings with an ‘advisor’.
I can’t be the only one who feels like going to the Jobcentre is a monumental waste of time, to be informed what my limited choices are by a desk jockey bound by paperwork. Half the battle seems to be dealing with being spoken to as if you are a frothing inbred yokel. You start to realise why all those signs are up by the sofas. And then whatever choice you decide upon would have to be processed by Cosham, that’ll be another fortnight. Unfortunately this laborious process is a necessity if you want any sort of support whilst out of work.
Personally, I think my internship at a real life, working company in an industry I am interested in is much more valuable experience than being patronised at the job centre. At an internship, I can learn new and relevant skills; make use of my university education, network and maybe even end up with a job. At the very least, it is certainly an opportunity which could lead to further opportunities, in a place where it feels possible to progress.
Or, I could take the advice of the Jobcentre, do some shitty training course or get a job in one of four areas:
- A Call Centre
- Sales (sometimes purely commission based)
- Customer Services
- A Warehouse
Like every other graduate looking for work out there, I may as well not have bothered with higher education if I was to pursue a career in one of the above areas. Yet, many graduates don’t really have a choice. And before anyone says it’s not necessarily a career choice, but a job to tide you over until things work themselves out, think on this: Graduates who go into a job where they are underemployed (whatever they can get, i.e. one of the above, waiting tables and so on) are likely to still be there 3 and a half years later. AKA, stuck there.
Personally, I am lucky. I am living at home, with parents, for now. My situation is not yet desperate. But it is also not uncommon. It is well known that youth unemployment is a problem in the UK. However, what is often less talked about and avoided by Ministers is the issue of underemployment, particularly of graduates. Many young people, capable of more, are graduating from university and finding themselves in, for want of a better phrase, crap jobs.
The people are the primary resource of a country, and many of Britain’s, instead of being trained in something skilful or useful and fulfilling their potential, are being squandered in dead end jobs in order to make ends meet. Worryingly, there seems to be a growing acceptance among young people that this is the status quo, and that’s the only way it is.
Once you are stuck in a crap job, it gets a lot more difficult to change and progress. Internships and work experience, although unpaid, have become the standard and accepted way to get your foot in the door if you want to end up doing anything remotely interesting/rewarding/skilful, whilst getting paid. Yet how does one achieve this if they are working full time?
For the most part, these specialised internships and work placements demand, at the least, a detailed CV and cover letter, tailored to the position and the company. To do this, you need to do your research, draft, check etc. If you are doing this for a large number of institutions (which you will be) there is no guarantee that any of them will accept you at all even after you have put all the time and effort in. It is a much more time consuming process than applying for the lame jobs the government would happily see you take just to get the unemployment figures down.
Finding time for this, in contrast to looking for a one of the above jobs, can be very difficult if working full time, especially in an industry such as hospitality, where split shifts take up the vast majority of an individual’s waking hours and days off are sporadic.
When/if you secure a temporary position, you still face the challenge of how you will fund it if the company is not covering expenses. This if you’re lucky enough to be in a position where you have minimal other expenses (such as living at home with parents) in the first place. If you’ve got rent to pay and food to buy, forget it. If the company is not covering travel expenses, it may mean you will be working a job in the evenings and weekends on top of your full time position. If, of course, you can get one.
It is seems to me to be highly unlikely that this country will improve economically, socially and morally in the long term if it is populated by a workforce mostly characterised by mediocrity, unfulfillment and disappointment . So, Jobcentre, maybe a bit of help for the people out there who haven’t yet resigned themselves to a crap job.