Saturday, 9 February 2013

Tick Tock - Watch that Clock! Is it Game Over at 21 for Unemployed?

.... I have been blogging about my 2nd son's Vincent's search for work for the past 2.5 months - a lad aged 20 going on 21 in the spring, who becomes seasonally unemployed each winter due to the fact he works for a local Holiday Resort by the coast in N Wales. It's been a bit longer this year as Pontins has been doing a refurb so he has been out of work since late November 2012.

Our town will see a much awaited (has only taken 15 years in planning and developing!) retail park that is due to open in March. There is the promise of 300 jobs with the big name retailers, but as my son can verify there are some sinister things afoot if you are aged 18+ looking for a job in this sector.

I'll start with the minimum wage - a flagship policy the Labour Party can be proud of, a much awaited and heralded wage that protects the low paid. However, probably in order to appease  employers it is not without serious flaws. It segregates workers seriously by age. Age 16-18 you recieve £3.68 ph,
18-21 £4.98 and 21+ £6.19. Shockingly apprentices aged under 19 get £2.68 in their first year.

Vincent was selected to be in the final round of 3 of the major retailers interviews/group days for some of the posts available. Incidentally for one retailer they had over 1000 applicants and whittled these down to 60. One group day stood out. He was in a group of 5 people - he was the only male and the only one aged over 18. The females in the group had no retail experience and asked Vincent to lead the group in their tasks. He told me he was careful to ask everyone for their views as the group were being marked closely with interviewers around the room. One of the females in the group contributed nothing and did not speak at all. They were then led into personal interviews and Vincent was wearing his good suit, shirt and tie and polished shoes. All things I thought were minimal for a job interview. He said only himself and one other male were in what he termed "Interview Wear". Some of the females had jeans and casual tops on. He felt the personal interview went very well and came home and honestly thought he had nailed it. There were 2 Full Time posts and several Part Time posts at 12-16 hours a week. He felt a few of the older females aged 30+ would probably get the Full Time posts as they had considerable experience but he was hopeful of a Part Time Position.

Prestatyn is a small seaside town. Many people know each other or know someone through a friend of a friend. The following week Vincent received a rejection email. He was upset, but that quickly turned to bewilderment when via facebook he learnt that indeed the Full Time positions had gone to older people aged 30+ but ALLof the part time posts had gone to females aged 17. One of the females was the non contributor in his group. He could not understand how she had got the job. He did some research and asked round and soon a pattern was emerging. More and more people he knew of his own age who had some experience in retail had not even reached the interview stage, yet Employers were taking on unprecedented numbers of Under 18 year olds. It also emerged that a few retailers who were closing shops in local towns like Rhyl were having to bring existing staff to the retail park  to their new shops and so these "new jobs" did not exist. To further compound matters after I did some research, I ascertained that of these 300 jobs approximately 85% of them are Part Time. Part Time starts from 10 hours pw and seems to average out at around 16 hours in most cases.

Two employers are not advertising jobs at all. One was heavily involved in the WorkFare fiasco. This employer has gone through the Job Centre for recruitment. Vincent asked his Job Centre advisor if he could apply for one of their posts but was told he could not as he was not one of the long term unemployed and these posts were being offered to them only. He was understandably annoyed when he overheard someone nearby being told " they had to apply" for these jobs. The man was not interested so the advisor told him he would fill in the application on his behalf and send it to the employer himself! The man replied that the advisor could do what he liked but he would turn up for the interview as he did'nt want to be sanctioned but he would "make sure" he didn't get the job. Sat in the next seat to him is Vincent who would dearly love that job, but could not apply, as he hadn't been unemployed long enough to fit the criteria for application. There are indeed those who know the system and seek to cheat it, but there are those like my son doing everything possible to get a job and beeing denied open opportunities to apply. WRONG!

The second employer went a different route through the Job Centre and Vincent has applied as they have heavily vetted who is able to apply. Vincent had an interview at the Job Centre and filled in the application form to see if he could be put forward for an actual interview with the firm. He has been put forward and will go to the formal interview next week. Lot of rings to jump through but he has at least succeeded to interview stage.

But after several interviews and getting through to final stages, he feels it is not what he wears, not what he says, not even how he comes across, but his age is holding him back, as from later this spring he is 21 and will be on the adult minimum wage, and employers can make huge savings in employing younger people.

Solution: Get employers round a table. Scrap the Minimum Wage which is tiered and either have a wonderful opportunity in bringing in a Living Wage for all Workers, or scrap this ridiculous tiered system for the Minimum Wage and bring in a flate rate for all Workers at £6.19ph. Whether you are 16, 21 or 45 you are a worker who should be valued for the work you do by your employer. This would end the employers seeking to take advantage of ofering 16-18 year olds a vastly inferior minimum wage. This Government will not entertain it, but the next Labour Government must look into it and "root out" these employers who are taking advantage of the minimum wage age apartheid system we have currently.

Vincent for the record although initially deflated, has irons in the fire. He has been provisionally accepted to go on "Camp America" his seasonal employment starts back in March should he wish to go back, he has an interview for one of the retail park part time positions, and after badgering his Job Centre Advisor he is starting a LifeGuard course on Feb 11th. There are quite a  few pools and jobs available on the coast and places are always looking for qualified lifeguards. As he says, it also looks like he is not wasting his time while being unemployed and he can add the course to his CV. Again these courses are routinely offered to the Long Term Unemployed as these people keep coming up on the stats for the press, yet the newly unemployed are not offered these courses unless they pester a bit. All unemployed people, regardless of how long and how old they are, should be offered courses and help to get back into work immediatley and not just for those whose stats "embarass" the Government of the day.

If any MP influential person reads this blog, please take these points on board and act upon them or we will end up with another young generation on the scrapheap. A Living Wage for all please.