Update 19 November:
Talked to the DWP and asked for responses to these questions:
– How charging for these courses works
– The fees that providers charge for these courses
– What sort of quality control the DWP have in place for these courses
– Whether or not attendance on these courses compulsory for people who are claiming JSA and if the DWP instructs jobcentres to sanction people who refuse to attend a course (certainly people are sanctioned for not attending)
– What sort of reporting the DWP does on course attendance, quality, cost and outcomes.
That was on Monday. So far – nothing. Even reminders have been ignored. So – will ring again.
You can see from the comments people have left on this article how ridiculous these courses really are. You also know that someone is making plenty of money out of them.
One I’ve been thinking about for a while:
Another phenomenon worth touching on when we’re talking about pointless jobsearch activity is the so-called “work skills” courses that JSA claimants are sent on by jobcentres. These are the courses that are provided, if that’s the word, by the likes of Reed, A4e and other of the usual suspects. People must attend these courses if the jobcentre says so. It’ll be news to nobody that people are told they’ll be sanctioned if they say No, and are indeed sanctioned if they say No. You can see that in the transcripts below. (I’m wondering if these courses ARE actually mandatory – or if people can say No and are just told they can’t, as they are told with everything else).
These courses have intrigued me for a while, because from the start, people have told me that so many of the courses are utterly meaningless. One man at the Kilburn jobcentre told me earlier this year that while he was sorting out a support worker job and waiting for CRB checks to come through, he was sent on a course where he was taught to tear up paper for teamwork purposes. “They sent me on this stupid course at Wembley. It was just a two week thing – a waste of time. They teach you how to stick a piece of paper back together as a teamwork thing. They said I’d get certificates for it. I said “there’s no way I’m putting that on my CV. You’re having a laugh.”
I started thinking about this again recently, because I’ve noticed that the JSA claimants I’m speaking with each week at jobcentres are getting angrier and angrier at the absurdity of these courses. It occurs to me that the anger is escalating. People are already furious at being forced to work 30 hours a week for free on community work placements and about the torturous daily sign on process. One guy at the North Kensington jobcentre (you can read more about this below) reported that his course provider took real exception when people on the course got together and said that the whole exercise was pointless. He said that the course provider pretty much got to the “Let’s Take This Outside,” point when people complained. “We got threats from the providers…I had no choice. I had to go on the course, or get no money.”
People are sent on courses which have absolutely nothing to do with their skills, or areas of work – so much for “tailoring” and all of that. When people finish these courses, they are awarded “certificates” which they know will mean five-eighths of stuff-all to an employer. You’ll see below that people who are near retirement age and have no interest in computers are forced onto computer courses and sanctioned for saying “No, there’s no point in that for me. I don’t want to do that.” I’ve spoken to people at North Kensington recently who have been sent on courses which teach jobsearch – a Reed course which, as one recent graduate of it said, gave him nothing apart from a certificate which says that he can carry out a jobsearch. “I don’t think that employers are going to be very impressed when I say I’ve been on a course learning how to look for jobs,” he told me (he was a 55-year-old driver looking for part-time work).
I wasn’t very impressed myself when I heard that jobcentres were sending people on courses to teach them how to do a jobsearch. You’ll fall about laughing at this, I know – but I think that helping people with jobsearches is the jobcentre’s job. Of course – jobcentres are not doing this. They’re not doing anything of the kind. They’re removing phones from sites (the Clacton CAB showed me a shed that the CAB had converted into a phone booth for JSA claimants to use when the jobcentre phones were taken away), telling people they must hunt for jobs online even if they can’t use computers, and threatening people with sanctions if they don’t sign on daily.
If jobcentres wanted to help people find work, they’d give people access to phones in jobcentres to call employers (as I say, there are no phones for people to use in many jobcentres now), or call employers on people’s behalf, especially if people are struggling with computers and jobsearch, or set up actual job interviews for them and recommend them as candidates. Instead, jobcentres send people on these ridiculous, soul-destroying courses. Somebody somewhere must be doing extremely well out of it all, of course. I will ask the DWP this week what sort of money course providers charge for this stuff, and what the outcomes are for people who go on them. Perhaps Reed, or A4e or whoever would like to invite me to attend a few courses so I can see what happens (or doesn’t happen) on them. I’m particularly intrigued by the one where you tear up a piece of paper for the hell of it. Sounds a great little earner.
Anyway. Here are a few thoughts from people who caught in all of this:
Man at the North Kensington jobcentre. Had his four-year-old son with him:
“I went on a jobsearch course. It was all about looking for a work. It was ridiculous.
Nobody on the course liked it. It was the catalyst for us. We made our complaints and got threats from the providers… Some of the people in the class didn’t want to do the [course] work. They were in construction and the work that was set for us was to do with retail, so there was no point. So, they raised that with the boss of the course. He was almost offering to one of the students… [to take it outside to settle the argument]. That’s something you have to deal with. There’s no point coming back here [to the jobcentre] to raise it. I had no choice. I had to go on the course, or get no money. The lady that was our tutor – she wasn’t really interested. She didn’t want to have nothing to do with us. You’d go to her for help. She’d look at it and say “that’s wrong” and then basically, you go back redo it, come back – and I ended up doing that like five times before she said “that’s okay.” That was in July. It was two weeks. They recently made me go on a two-day course on CVs which I didn’t need to go on, because I had my CV. They will probably send me on something else soon, or they are going to make me go on a volunteer work scheme. It’s ridiculous.
“Last year, I got a job with Royal Mail through Angard. I worked there for one day and I was told that when they got more hours, they’d call me and let me know. I went in for the first day. I worked all day, did the job and I heard nothing. For two weeks, I heard nothing. When they did call me, they asked me if I would do a driver’s job. In the interview, I said I didn’t have a licence and I couldn’t do a driving course. That’s what I got.”
Outside the North Kensington jobcentre. Driver, made redundant, age 55. Already on daily sign on.
“They seem to pick the courses at random. They are virtually the same, identical course that you’ve already been on. They send you to an identical one a few months later. Some of them last three or four days. Some of them last two weeks. Most of them teach you things like CVs. They don’t really know what the course is about. They don’t really care when you get there. They go through loads and loads of paperwork. One [I did] was a certificate for jobsearch. I think that was with Reed. I don’t think that employers are going to be very impressed when I say I’ve been on a course learning how to look for jobs.
“I’m looking for part time work as a driver. I was made redundant from my last job. I had my money cut off [sanctioned] because they sent me an appointment which didn’t arrive until the day of the appointment. They still cut the money off. I was talking to someone yesterday – they cut him off, because he wouldn’t go on a computer course. He’s in his 60s. He’s retiring soon anyway and he’s just been on one one those courses. I’ve been on four or five. He’s just been on another one. They’re going to send him on another course for four weeks. They do that to a lot of people.”