Just how do we get an unemployed workforce back to work and engaged?

Last week I participated in an initiative to introduce the 50+ age group here in Watford to people who might be able to help them get back into work. There were representatives from different organisations around Watford there for the attendees to talk to, but what of the 50+ age group, what were they like, what were their expectations?

Well as you can imagine there were people from all walks of life... there were some there that attended because they were kind of told to do so... others because they were unemployed but wanted to start something themselves, and others who had been employed for decades and just needed to get a 'job' to pay the bills etc.

Here is an interesting observation though... when asking people about their experience you get one answer, when you ask them what would they love to do... you very often get another... what they are trying to do is work within the confines of the box that they have created for themselves...

And herein lies the problem and indeed the solution to the issue... the whole unemployed situation is politicised... it is a political football... of course we need to get people making a contribution to society but not doing something they have no interest in doing... that benefits no one in the longer term... Unemployment & benefits is a huge emotive subject and I constantly hear... how are the government going to create jobs? ... time to wake up folks!! ... they aren't... they can't... the solution is not with them it is with us!!

What I have observed is that we have Job Centres incentivised and funded with tax payer's money to get people back to work... we all want that don't we? We have people out there unemployed who must come into the Job Centres, go for Interviews and seek work otherwise they won't get their benefits... well we want them to look for work don't we? Nothing wrong so far... and we want employers to be able to fill vacancies easily and as at lower cost as possible... sounds perfect... so what is wrong with it?

I believe from talking to Employers that the Job Centre is not seen as a source of good potential candidates... the Job centre itself has checks and balances i.e. targets to make, based on people seen, job interviews attended, so focused on making the numbers work... and the individuals themselves see the interview process as a necessary task to continue to receive benefits... I am not saying this is right by the way... I am just airing views from what I have observed!

The whole process above is costly and painful... people get called into an interview, they don't want the job, perform badly, back on benefits, tick in the box at the Job Centre, employer ends up with someone who might stick for a few months but is not really right for the job... who has won in this situation? No one... but we have gone around the loop, collected the numbers, done the targets, but not achieved any of what we set out to do...but it has cost a lot of money... scale this up nationally and it is a vast problem that needs to be tackled.

So how could we do things differently? 

What if instead of thinking about the job market as it is currently, we looked at it from a different perspective. What if we asked people what they are passionate about and what they liked doing... what they would almost do without being paid (not that I am suggesting that)... What if we asked employers to be flexible about how they hired staff... maybe even take on a resource they couldn't afford right now, but with a view to at least provide someone with a chance to make a contribution (if the person proved indispensable and made a significant contribution then a role could be found?)... what if the Job centres role in all of this was to run workshops about how we all have skills and we can all play our part in rebuilding local community, we just need to help people find their purpose and get involved in what is happening locally (I wrote another blog piece on that which you can read here) ...

So if there were local 'Free' events run every week, that anyone could attend from any walk of life or background, that brought local community together and enabled them to talk... share contacts, deepen relationships, get to know each other, even do business... couldn't we open up opportunities? Wouldn't we be in danger of creating collaborations and new initiatives? ... Would we possibly start to rebuild those local communities we have lost in the past 30 years? ... just maybe... the old adage of,

"it's not what you know, it's who you know" 

has never been so poignant... so who do you know locally? Would it hurt to be better connected?


We have built processes and systems that treat people as an object, a number, not a person... these systems are designed to process numbers and produce reports not handle a very human problem... unemployment is not a national problem, it is not the Government's problem... it is OUR Problem.... and we have to deal with it... it's not like we are struggling to find things that need fixing out there, because there is a lot that could be better... what are we waiting for? Time to get together, work as interconnected local teams and put this right ourselves... you can look over your shoulder all you want... the cavalry is not coming... it is down to us!


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