John Harris

Journalist & Author

A day at the Job Centre

Just published in G2: an account of office-hours at a Job Centre Plus in Selly Oak, Birmingham. An illustrative excerpt:

I watch 27-year-old Nathan reluctantly talking through details of his life with a personal adviser who suspects that this jobseeker is not doing quite what he is told. On the screen is a list of qualifications – four or five GSCEs at grade D, a diploma in sound engineering – and a sketchy employment history that drew to a close recently with the end of his six-month contract at the Cadbury factory in nearby Bournville.

The usual rules apply: most of the jobs require previous experience, and Nathan hasn’t got any. He casts me a knowing smirk, then looks back at the face on the other side of the desk. “That’s the problem with most of these jobs,” he says. “How are you going to get any experience?”

For the first time, even the adviser sounds less than enthusiastic. “If you’ve got the right qualifications and skills,” he says, “you should still apply for the job.”

More vacancies flit across the screen, for “employment administrators”, “trainee advisers” and the like. Just about all of them pay less than £6 an hour.

“What’s the minimum wage now?” asks Nathan. When reminded, he emits a fatalistic “pffft” sound, and cracks another smirk.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 25th, 2009 at 2:53 pm and is filed under Politics, features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. « Back from Lib Dem conference… | Beatles overkill »
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