I know it’s a bit late in the day to start bringing up the issue of Job Centre changing from ‘job cards’ advertising work on easy to view boards to the new innovative ‘LMS – labour Market System’ standalone console that has a touch screen. But I’m going to ‘bump’ the problem back into 2012….
Old style Job Centre boards where it was ‘EASY’ to find a job
In the mid 1980’s when I left school I was introduced to the Job Centre as a convenient and great place to look for work. I had to find a job because not working wasn’t an option especially seeing as my father had just given me a bill to cover a third of the household costs which frightened me into realising how much I was costing my parents. If I remember, it was about £128 a week, he asked me to contribute towards the weekly bills. That day has been imprinted on my mind for years and was a big wake up call to any ‘young person’ who hasn’t a clue what the costs of running a home amount to …… and bear in mind this was the mid 1980’s.
Before I go off track and start going off on one about something else, I want to being you back to the world of Job Centres and the ways they used to help people find a job.
There used to be a ‘job card’ which was an index card and was placed on a display board inside every Job Centre and advertised a work vacancy pertinent to that type of work and a specific local area.
There were boards with vacancies advertsised under ‘Cleaners’ , Sales, Marketing, Security, Plumbing, Electricians, Apprentices, Factory, Bakers, Retail, Admin and Office, Banks, Delivery and Double Glazing canvassing, just to give you a general idea. There was even a display board showing some vacancies in ‘other areas’.
Each card represented ONE vacancy and it would give details of the job, the pay and reference number. The contact name and telephone number were not on them, as these were held by the Job Centre staff. You only got these details when you went to ask about the vacancy.
You could literally walk into a Job Centre and look ak 500 jobs in the space of 10 minutes if you were switched on and keen to find something only because you could take a good ‘panoramic’ style view of everything. Not only was this a better system but it also opened your eyes to other types of work available that you perhaps hadn’t thought of. For example, under the heading ‘Aircraft technician’, a job could be available to someone with little experience but keen to learn and employer happy to take on those willing to adapt and try something different. These days, people looking for jobs on the new style LMS computer console don’t get to see these opportunities and the way the system is set up eventually can make anyone despondent after 10 minutes of touching the screen and not getting anywhere fast. If you are good at using the LMS machine at your local Job Centre you could maybe browse through 20 jobs in 10 minutes. Remember that the old style job cards on the board system you could browse through 500 jobs in 10 minutes. That’s quite a difference and I think needs looking at.
When I was 20 years old I wanted to set up a new style Job Centre and rather than advertise the jobs on cards, I’d decided to advertise the potential employees on the boards so employers could walk in and browse through using the same method. I didn’t go ahead with this idea but looking back now would have been innovative at the time and perhaps there’s still a need for something in the ‘job hunting’ market.
In 2001, I set up a website called ‘C -MyCV’ where people could send me their CV, I would upload all of their details online omitting personal data and then send out the website link to employers looking for staff. This didn’t get up and running properly from lack of business acumen and also due to lack of funding ( I was skint ) and couldn’t find any sponsors. Unfortunately, the website is no longer active. Shame though, some have gone on to becoming quite good at it too. ‘Jobsite’ and ‘Monster’ being two of the biggest.
Going back to the old style Job Cards and boards, I’ve interviewed someone who used to work in the ‘old type’ Jobcentre and asked them for a description of what it was like to be there and what they think of the system these days. Have a read below…
Former Job centre worker ‘Sam’
“When I worked in the Jobcentre, back in the day,(I think it was 1994 ish) it was completely different to what it is now. I worked on “frontline” which was basically seeing the customers that came to sign every 2 weeks. I would look at the “job diary” to make sure they were adhering to their “jobseeker agreement.” Everyone who signed on would have one of these. It was an agreement between their adviser and them as to what they would do each week to look for work, and what job they were interested in doing. IE, look in the papers, ask around factories, sending their cv out.
My job also entailed looking at job vacancies for customers. The customer would look on the board (very easy to read and keep maintained). They would bring over a job number they wanted to apply for. I would talk it over with them. Make sure they had relevant experience or qualifications needed. Then I’d either phone the employer or give them the telephone number to ring them. This was by far the best system, because customers could see ALL the vacancies. Sometimes, there would be a job on the board that the customer might not have thought about applying for until they saw it in black and white. The system worked. I’m not saying it was perfect. There were times when customers would take the cards off the boards. I can only assume it was so no-one else could apply for the job that they were interested in. They knew there would be a lot of interest. It wasn’t a major problem as when we had a spare five minutes, we would go and tidy the boards up.
It was a much friendlier place to work in back then. You could talk to the customers, spend some time with them, get to know them a bit. It was still very much STATS related. For example, if a lone parent were to apply for job and get it, then you’d get a higher number stat. If a customer who was already employed, applied and succeeded, then you got a lower number stat.
I don’t work there anymore, although I’m still in the Civil Service. But some friends of mine are still there. They say it is not a friendly place to be now. If people want to apply for jobs, they can’t just go up and ask. They are directed to the “warm phone.” I am told that an appointment has to be made just to get through the door these days.
I believe we gave much better customer service back then. Maybe I’m looking back through rose coloured spectacles.? But I enjoyed my job very much back then. When it started changing, bringing in the computer system for customers to use, etc, that’s when I decided it was time for me to move on. I’m a customer focussed person. I’m not saying all the staff are (some should most definately NOT be customer faced)! But I enjoyed it.
Where do I see it going in the future?? Who knows. I don’t think that Joe Bloggs is seen as a person anymore. I think they are just another number. There are too little vacancies out there, and too many people needing them.
Do I agree with making people work for their benefit?? In a lot of ways, yes, I do. The long term unemployed have got stuck in a rut. They are seen to employers as non-employable. They may need a refresher in the work environment. Some of these long term unemployed customers have come from families that have lived off benefits all their lives, so don’t know any other way. Some may have slight learning disabilities..these are the ones that need the most help. They are trying desperately to find a job. They just need a helping hand. Some may need help with CVs or interviewing skills. Back in the day, that was when “Jobclubs” would try and help.
Would it help if the cards were back on boards? Yes, absolutely! Computers crash! If you don’t know the exact title of a job that you know is being advertised, then the vacancy won’t show up on the system. I don’t know if the boards will ever make an appearance again, as the Civil Service is trying to turn itself into a paperless office. This is only my opinion. Maybe the government need to come back down to earth and take a look at what is happening. Not just make decisions without knowing the consequences.
Hope this has helped give an insight as what it was like. ”
If you have any comment on what you think of the old system to the new more efficient one, or your idea where you see the future of job hunting going, please comment on this post.