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UKCES

Here’s a fascinating press release that arrived yesterday. It seems to be trying to discourage people from helping friends and family into work through ‘word of mouth’ recruitment, in favour of – try not to laugh – Universal Jobmatch!

It seems the latest wheeze is to say that ‘word of mouth’ hinders social mobility – whereas Jobmatch, as we all know, tries to funnel jobseekers into any available work, no matter how inappropriate. It allows the government to sanction jobseekers who fail to apply for jobs they view.

Oh yes, and there’s also the matter of identity theft; none of the ’employers’ advertising on Jobmatch are vetted by the government, and many have been found to be criminal organisations who want jobseekers’ personal details for illicit purposes. Make no mistake – this is a dangerous system.

That’s not the worst of it, though – the press release misrepresents the information, which in fact shows that employers should be doing much more to help social mobility, by advertising all the jobs they have to offer and providing more and better training opportunities. These are glossed over, in order to put pressure on the jobseeker.

Here’s the text of the release. Let’s go through it together:

“Social mobility and economic growth hindered by word of mouth recruitment

“As the government’s new social mobility ‘tzar’, James Caan, calls on parents not to automatically help their child into a job or work experience, figures published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) show that word of mouth is now the most common recruitment method.” Doesn’t that mean it’s the most successful? Why is James Caan trying to stop people from using a tried and proven way of getting jobs? And, has anyone heard of this ‘Employment and Skills’ commission before?

Assistant Director at UKCES, Moira McKerracher, said: “Although it’s probably unrealistic to expect people to stop helping their children, Mr Caan raises an important point. Our research shows that the most common way for people to get a job is now word of mouth. That might be cheap, but it’s got a lot of disadvantages. It relies on people having social and professional networks – a ‘grapevine’ – which young people often don’t have. When they do, it’s often through their parents. And it narrows down the potential pool of talent for employers, who could be missing out on some fantastic staff.” Okay, a lot of this seems reasonable, but doesn’t it mean that other ways of getting work have been closed off?

“Using services like Universal Jobmatch, advertising in the local paper, online and using social media or recruitment agencies can be very cost-effective ways of ensuring employers get access to the widest possible pool of talent, and young people are given a fair chance of a job.” Here’s where it all falls apart. Putting a discredited mess like Jobmatch at the top of the list casts a deadly shadow over the others. And aren’t the social media and recruitment agencies just another form of the networking that was being discouraged a couple of paragraphs ago?

“Scaling the Youth Employment Challenge, published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, notes that word of mouth is now the most common way of getting a job, with 29 per cent of employers using it to recruit compared to 24 per cent two years ago. There has been a corresponding drop in the number of employers formally advertising vacancies.” If the preceding paragraph sounded the death knell for this release’s credibility, that passage set the alarm bells ringing. Aren’t employers under a statutory obligation to advertise job vacancies? I may be wrong but this suggests that it is employers who are causing the problem, not jobseekers.

“It also finds that the major reason employers reject job applications from young people is because they lack experience, yet only one in four (27 per cent) actually offer work experience.” Yes – so it is the employers causing the problem. Why is this not flagged up, rather than the efforts of good parents and friends, trying to help people out?

“The report also finds that even young people with a job are frequently under-employed, with one in five wanting to work more hours. A disproportionate amount of youth employment is in low-skill, low-pay jobs with little training and few opportunities for progression. It calls on employers to do more to help young people into work – for example, by providing work experience, mentoring, apprenticeships, traineeships and entry-level jobs.” Again, all of these are issues for employers, not jobseekers. Why not get on their case, rather than bothering the unemployed over matters they cannot influence?

“The UK Commission for Employment and Skills is a publicly funded, industry-led organisation providing strategic leadership on skills and employment issues in the four home nations of the UK.” Oh – that’s why. It’s a mouthpiece for employers to justify their behaviour.

This press release went out to newspapers and other media outlets across the UK and, knowing the media as I do, I’m sure many of them will have just picked it up and dropped it into a space without even stopping to think about whether the information is correct. That’s how the government gets away with planting misinformation in public perception – reporters are overworked and don’t have time to consider the implications of what they’re publishing.

And readers want to trust news providers. This is why the BBC must be criticised for its distortion of NHS facts and figures – it should not be a propaganda arm of the Coalition government.

It’s time to question what you’re being told.