I have been unemployed and looking for a job for the last five months. In this time I have applied for approximately fifty jobs, and have spent a considerable amount of time looking for many more. I have predominantly been looking for administrative work, and I’ve been struck by two ‘features’ of the job market. Features very different from when I was in a similar position five years ago.
Search for admin jobs on the DWP Jobseekers website and you’ll immediately notice the proliferation of apprenticeships available. The jobs described are of general administrative work: data entry, filing, photocopying, answering the phones, answering written queries etc. And this will gain you a low level NVQ in admin. And your wage? Approximately £100 a week. Apprenticeships are “minimum wage exempt”.
Of course, anyone who has ever done administration work (and has hopefully got paid a real wage for it) will know that the “apprenticeships” described are standard entry level administrative jobs. These jobs don’t require specific qualifications; these jobs get you the experience that will allow you to apply for better paid, higher grade, admin work. And these higher graded admin jobs do not require NVQs. I have yet to see a single job advert that specifies you need this qualification.
Call it an apprenticeship and you get a full time worker for £100 a week. I can’t imagine why they’re so numerous…
2. Phantom Jobs
On a few occasions I have come across job adverts that are utterly nonsensical, rendering it impossible to actually submit an application.
In one instance I came across a job advert (again on the jobseekers website) that stated twice, once in caps, that the application had to be handwritten. Typed submissions would not be accepted. Under ‘how to apply’ it then provided an email address. Ironically enough one of the other criteria was ‘attention to detail’. Now perhaps this was a test of initiative – s/he who locates a scanner gets the job – but I can’t help wonder if the job actually existed at all. I searched the employer and found a website, but the contact menu provided no address, and no telephone number. I made a note of it with the intention to email and ask, but a day later (and still a couple of weeks before the deadline) the job advert had gone. Maybe the mistake had been noticed. But the advert was never replaced.
On a more recent job search I found a vacancy that again appeared to be very suitable, and that I wished to apply. The instructions however were once again missing some vital information – it stated to “obtain the employer’s application form” but did not provide a link or any hint of how to do so. Once again I searched for the employer’s own website, and located their job vacancies page: “No vacancies available”. I checked the employer name again. I definitely had the right website. I looked again at the jobseekers page, and decided to email the ‘submissions’ address for more information. And I immediately got a response – an automatic response. The inbox was unmanned.
Of course it is possible that I’ve just been unfortunate in finding job adverts that are terribly flawed, but considering that the majority of adverts state that unsuccessful applicants will not be contacted, it would be incredibly easy to invent fake positions that are never filled. And this, combined with the number of “apprenticeships” that are only available to young people under 24 – young people under 24 who can afford to live on less than half of minimum wage that is – serves to make a job hunt far more difficult than figures might suggest. It might also help explain why on average there are only 6 people to every vacancy, and yet you can apply to hundreds and never hear anything in reply. (For reference I live in a city where the average is less than this, and I have had a couple of interviews – so I don’t believe my lack of success is down to lower odds or bad applications).
So I wondered; has anyone else come across such adverts? Is this the same when searching for jobs in other sectors? To what extent are apprenticeships being used to provide cheap labour without offering meaningful skills in return? And just how numerous are these ‘phantom’ jobs?!