The State of the Job Market

If you have been paying attention to the front pages of the broadsheet newspapers, and I have no reason to suspect that you haven’t, you may have noticed that gainful employment is becoming increasingly difficult to come by. Headline after headline reports the scaling back of graduate recruitment schemes and rising unemployment figures. What jobs there are have a lot of people after them.

Should you wish to get an interview for one of these rare and elusive jobs, it is essential to make yourself stand out from the hundreds of others who are vying for the same position. Now that Facebook and Google enable employers to unravel your Submitted Tissue of Lies (or as it used to be known, your CV), it has become somewhat necessary to make yourself seem like a more employable person through a gap year or, should you have opted not to spend a year taking drugs in Goa, charitable work.

It seems like sensible enough advice. Rather than sitting at home, collecting your dole, why not get out there and give back to society? It shows employers what a well rounded individual you are. It also has the added bonus of everybody else look slightly worse for neglecting to spend their spare time reading Chekhov to blind puppies as you have.
Like all pieces of advice glibly given by somebody who gets a regular wage paid into their bank account, it has a rather large flaw which remains unnoticed by the media and which renders it quite useless to anybody who is filling out job application forms.
In the UK, to be eligible for the dole, you must be actively seeking and available for work. Should you be performing any kind of charity or volunteer work, you will no longer be considered to be actively available for work and your benefits will be stopped.

A second piece of news you may or may not have paid any attention to is the report that the people in the more middle class jobs (journalists, lawyers, advertising executives etc) come from much more affluent backgrounds than they did some years ago.
It stands to reason. The graduates who manage to break into these areas are the ones who have a CV boasting stints digging wells in Africa and who spent their summer holidays showing inner city chavs which end of a cow milk comes from. The people who spent their summers as a checkout monkey to earn their tuition fees and who left university with a five figure debt cannot hope to compete.
They also cannot hope to get a foot in the door through internship. Unless you are part of the old boys’ network, your hopes of getting a place are slim to non-existent. If you do find somewhere which will give you the work experience, unless you have the (rather obnoxiously named) Bank of Mum and Dad to call upon, you will have to find a paid job to fit in around your unpaid 40 hour week.

Only yesterday I read a defence of unpaid internships which claimed it was a fair system because a graduate should look upon it as an investment against their future earnings. It was argued that at 16, a shop worker is earning the same amount as they will at 40 whereas a graduate’s wages increase year on year. Sadly, how one is supposed to pay the gas bill with future earnings wasn’t explained.
As it happens, a graduate does not earn more over a lifetime than a non-graduate. A teacher can expect to earn (according to the graduate careers service Prospects) up to thirty thousand pounds a year. A recruitment consultant earns an average of almost twenty four thousand pounds a year. It is only after 10 to 15 years experience that it becomes possible to earn the higher wages of forty to a hundred thousand a year. If you start on the checkouts at Tesco, you can work your way up to that wage in ten to fifteen years without a degree behind you.
The statistics produced showing that graduates will earn more over a lifetime get skewed by the 1% who earn the top wages. A degree is only as good as the career path it opens up to you. There is no point in doing a psychology degree unless you plan to do the other three years and become a qualified psychologist.

The upshot of all of this is a system which alienates itself from the population. There is no point in having an office full of boys from Eton or Winchester College. How are they going to come up with an effective campaign to sell fruit juice to single mothers on council estates in Birmingham? Why would I want to read a newspaper whose supplements are exclusively written by people who have au pairs and Le Creuset cookware? I bought my saucepans from BHS (they had a 20% day). What use is an MP who only knows what poverty looks like because they visited it once with a camera crew in tow?

I think the first step is to overhaul the Job Centre. It was rubbish when I graduated six years ago and my UK based unemployed friends assure me it is rubbish now. I’m told it has little to offer anybody who has already perfected the skills of reading and writing. Is a graduate careers advisor too much to ask for?
Then, allow claimants to perform voluntary work without jeopardising their benefits. When you’ve done that, enable people to claim a means tested allowance while on work experience. It will give more people the chance to develop the skills employers want and the contacts to be successful while opening up internships to those graduates are not in a position to work without pay.
The final step is to write to every single university in the land and tell them to specify the job (or self employed career) that each degree they offer qualifies a graduate to do. If it doesn’t directly qualify you for work, it really shouldn’t be a degree.
I’m looking at you, Women’s Studies.

3 comments:

thread bear said...

Bravo!

sarah said...

ahahahahaa tissue of lies

you crack me up theo

and i have a bone to pick with those INTERNSHIPS. asses. i mean, good grief. getting some poor graduate to be your slave. shame on you. its such a scam

Theo said...

Jobs for the boys scams are the worst. It's all "We did it a hundred years ago or more so you should too". It's like an initiation. Pathetic.