The structure of the new 'world class' Dundee Employability Service was outlined to the Fairness Commission at our November meeting.
Some of the things that unemployed people had already told us in our 'Jobs and Work' survey laid bare the challenges the new service has to tackle. To give you a flavour here are a few quotes from people who are searching for work.
- "Lots of services out there to help you into work if you want help, but the work you're offered is ridiculous as compared to your own skills and qualifications. How many teachers and degree students now work at Tesco or other shops ? Total waste of our qualifications."
- "It's terrible. I am 59 and I'm on JSA (Job Seekers' Allowance).....I go for interviews and compete with 100 young people. I have no chance....I have to apply for jobs I'm not even qualified for in order to meet my job hunting quota of 15 per week. Be better off dead than living like this."
- "It is hard. I have disabilities and find the ignorance of employers of Dundee astounding.......I manage my condition well and can ensure I am able to carry out my work duties, however employers in Dundee seem to think they are doctors and have actively discriminated against me due to my condition."
- "My partner applies for jobs he is either not suited to in that he has no experience of that type of work or that he is over qualified for because he has to apply for so many of them in a certain period of time. Limited availability means people are just applying for anything and everything to be able to show a certain number applied for."
- "It is so depressing. Staff treat us like cattle. No compassion or kindness, just a number to be processed! We are made to apply for jobs we stand no chance of getting or face sanctions...... we are constantly disbelieved and treated like scroungers.......no real jobs, no careers. Pointless! It makes me despair!"
- It's extremely hard. The amount of people unemployed, everyone is trying for the same jobs. Would like there to be more job opportunities and for places to get back in touch with you to let you know if you were successful or not for an interview.
Recognising these as some of the challenges, Allan Millar, the City Council's Employability Manager told us that as well as the huge cost in human misery, the financial cost to Dundee of the current unemployment figures is more than £121 million per annum.
Current resources in the city are significant in terms of both money and staff, but already fall short of what is required. A strong, sustained partnership approach, drawing on and aligning staff and financial resources, is needed. We are, he said, a small compact city, with good practice and experienced and committed staff. Outlining the structural steps, including the exploring of City Deal opportunities, he sought responses from the Commission. Amongst these were our belief in the importance of client feedback, affordable childcare, transport costs, relationships with employers and employers' organisations, and, not surprisingly, the pursuit and establishment of the living wage city. It was then said and recognised that whilst it is important to get the structures right, without well trained and highly motivated frontline staff, it all falls apart.
Years ago part of my remit as an Industrial Chaplain was a weekly visit to the staff in the famous Gleneagles Hotel. The hotel's HR director said, "Although our setting here is beautiful, our golf courses wonderful and our facilities opulent, we have our weather! We are not southern California nor the Caribbean, so how do we compete with the other great resort hotels of the world? We compete by virtue of giving service that is beyond reproach, indeed beyond compare. Our most valuable asset is our staff, so we make sure our staff training, discipline, advancement, terms and conditions are the very best. The key to the enduring success of Gleneagles Hotel is their well trained, well rewarded and highly motivated staff. Every guest is treasured and every effort made to ensure that their stay at the hotel is the best it possibly can be."
If the new Dundee Employability Service is to be truly 'world class' then every visit to the Job Centre or Triage or support and training agencies, as well as job interviews should be an experience of hope and expectation, conducted with empathy and encouragement. What a transformation that would make for the unemployed man who says "I would be better off dead than living like this", or the unemployed women and men who say, "We are made to apply for jobs that we have no chance of getting" and for everyone who feels they are treated as cattle.
All of the above still only describes what we might call 'the waiting room for work' and the truth is many more good jobs will need to be generated.