job centre Jobcentre Plus? Not For Us.

The Jobcentre replaced Winston Churchill’s 20th century Labour Exchanges. In 1910, 62 labour exchanged opened their doors to the public who had previously knocked on factory doors asking for work. The first and second World Wars kept employment rates stable, but they began to creep up again in the 1960s. Labour Exchanges were rebranded as Jobcentres. Back then, you’d talk through your skills and experience with an advisor who would flick through job descriptions written on cards and choose which ones you should go for. Offices were scruffy, smoky and divided by gender. Benefits we’re paid cash-in-hand. The Jobcentre and the Unemployment Benefits Offices were two separate buildings which came together in 2001, forming Jobcentre Plus.

Those who watched the Jobcentre grow and change think it’s now much better than it used to be. Although the crisp, green logo suggests a positive, helpful place but unfortunately that’s not always the case. My experiences with today’s Jobcentre have been pretty lousy.

Myself like many had been given very little career advice at school. When looking for a weekend job after finishing school, I assumed the Jobcentre would be able to help me, only I found myself directed to a machine listing DirectGov vacancies rather than to a real-life talking person. The machine was an unresponsive touch screen computer which printed out contact details on request. The Jobcentre overall didn’t take my fancy and I looked for work on my own.

In 2011 I was made redundant and desperately needed full time work. I’d given the Jobcentre a few years to change its ways, so decided to give it another chance. I signed up to claim JSA online and arranged to speak to an advisor at my local Jobcentre Plus.

I felt Julie didn’t offer me any career advice. She’d ask me how I was, what jobs I’d applied for and sent me on my way. I felt she was patronising and insulting me rather than helping me into work. There was one occasion where she decided to attack my appearance by saying my nose ring ‘didn’t look good and didn’t look good to employers’, which left me fighting back tears. She picked out the faults on my CV, but didn’t advise me on how to improve it.

After three months of unsuccessful jobseeking, I was told I’d need to participate in the Work Experience Programme. A welding company took me on as a full time Sales and Marketing Administrator for six weeks. Julie didn’t tell me to apply for the work experience. The government told her to tell me. I’d arrive early for my meetings with her and would overhear her talking to other jobseekers. She didn’t seem to be able to tailor career advice. She was robotic, lacked emotion and I hated having to speak to her.