TRAINING? WHAT TRAINING?: THE JOB NETWORK SYSTEM SHAM

 

With the news that Qantas will shed 5,000 jobs coming hard on the heels of the announcement by Toyota and GMH to cease manufacturing in Australia, the rate of unemployed has doubled to 12.3% according to the latest Morgan Gallup poll, rocketing past the 6% recommended as the top end of the limit required by ‘supply side’ economics so favoured by the neo-libs and their ‘flexible workforce’ theories.

The 12.3% is of course only the tip of the iceberg, as anyone who is employed for working one hour a week is not considered to be ‘unemployed’ under the system used by the government to calculate the quarterly rate.

Nor do these estimates take into account casual or part time employment. In short, the figures are fudged and give weight to Disreali’s observation that “there are three kinds of  lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

While the Abbott government has announced the creation of a ‘Green Army’ to reduce youth unemployment, the bulk of the soon to be unemployed are likely to be over the age of 24 and will therefore fall under the auspices of the Job Network System when their redundancy payouts are depleted – and with the cost of living, this doesn’t take long to occur.

When the three month mark of unemployment is reached, these ‘job seekers’ will be offered ‘intensive assistance’ to further their efforts.

The term is actually a misnomer designed to give the public the impression that there are legions of bright eyed, well scrubbed case officers eagerly working day and night trying to help the luckless find a job as well as finding a job for them.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

In reality, what this means is that the JNS provider will apply enormous pressure to the client in order for them to take any job or more commonly find an excuse to suspend their welfare payments for failure to to comply with the terms of the ‘Mutual Obligation’ contract.

There are several ways of doing this. In the first instance, they will try to force the welfare recipient into a menial job, usually casual and paying well below award wages.

Hospitality is a favourite as is Customer Service.

It is here gentle reader, that the job seeker will enter the land of over-credentialization.

Most of these occupations, be it kitchen hand, dish washer, picker-packer, or wiping bottoms in a nursing home, require a Certificate of Competency from a Registered Training Organization.

This supposedly assures future employers that that the recipient is capable enough to wash a dish, answer a phone or administer Mr. Murphy’s enema with equal dexterity, preferably simultaneously, as this is known as multi-skilling and is highly prized by many employers as it enables them to pay one person to do the work of three.

An entire multi-million dollar industry has sprung up around this requirement.

The JNS provider will be happy to enrol the job-seeker in one of these courses as long as it’s on their approved list – that is, if the job is semi-skilled, involves long hours for low pay and above all – is on a casual basis!

Most JNS providers include  a Registered Training Organization as a subsidiary of the parent company, so the organization not only receives a stipend from the government for its services as Job Network Provider but is also able to claim a fillip by sending the job seeker to its ‘training’ arm.

However, before the ‘job seeker’ can practice their skills in opening a packet of Ezi-wipes or bingo calling, they have to undergo a ‘vocational preparation’ course which runs for an average of six weeks and whose sole purpose is to teach the job seeker how to write a resume and a covering letter.

While this process could be covered in a day or two even for slow learners, under the terms of their contract, the JNS provider is obliged to drag this process out in order to claim their payment from the government and for the hapless job seeker; this is where the real ordeal begins.

The inductees will not be placed in the hands of a teacher or trainer – in all likelihood, the luckless job seeker will be overseen by a ‘Life Coach’.

These are usually people who have neither teaching or training accreditation but rather bill themselves as ‘motivators’ or ‘facilitators’ and operate within the realm of the pop psych theories of ‘positive thinking, and ‘personal development’,

‘Motivation’ and ‘personal development’ begin with the the assumption that due to becoming unemployed, the job seeker has become totally bereft not only of intellect but of all independent thought and reasoning processes.

The basic premise of these sessions is; It’s your own fault you’re here, if you were thinking positively – you wouldn’t be unemployed now – you’d already have  another job!

Over the six week period, attendees of these courses are bombarded with aids to ‘personal development’ and ‘motivation’ such as ; ‘People have a behaviour -people are not the behaviour.’

‘Every difficulty is really and opportunity in disguise.’

‘If you really want to do something – you’ll find a way, otherwise you’ll find an excuse.’

To add insult to injury, advice on how to live on a stipend which is 50% below the poverty line include such pearls of wisdom as;

‘Whether you’re working full-time, part-time, or casually, it’s always important to make ends meet.’

Laughably, those struggling to survive on $12,000 p.a. are advised that; ‘Investing in shares, property or bonds are a great way to create savings and personal wealth’, therefore the wise dole recipient should; ‘Monitor all cash and investments to ensure that they are growing and not shrinking in value.’

This flannel occupies the bulk of the ‘vocational preparation’ and is applied so thickly and repetitively as to cause a high drop out rate.

Non-attendance however, equals non compliance with the ‘Mutual Oligation’ contract and therefore enables the JNS provider to breach miscreants.

The rest of the course consists of giving the inductees a resume template and then telling them to look for jobs online coupled with cold calling ‘potential employers’.

As most people would rather poke out their eyes with hot pins rather than try to convince a stranger who in all likelihood is busy and doesn’t want to talk to them about non-existent job vacancies – this activity serves to further the drop out rate.

Should the job seeker protest or refuse, they’re reminded that they’re not thinking positively and are risking losing their benefits for breach of contract.

From its outset as the brain-child of Tony Abbott over a decade and a half ago, the system has, and continues to be a sham.

Genuine job training or re-training does not exist in these organizations, nor does real help such as improving literacy or advising ‘job seekers’ how to further their education and is never mentioned let alone encouraged.

Corruption of the system by the providers is rife, with many providers claiming government fees for job placements when in fact the client has actually found their own employment.

Other methods to line their own pockets at the expense of the jobless, include pushing incentive fees at employers so that the JNS provider can also claim a placement fee from the government, enabling them to advance along a rating system to be awarded further contracts.

What is needed to lower unemployment figures and boost the economy is a stimulus package which includes a ‘Job Guarantee’ which places job seekers in government funded projects at the minimum wage of  $606.40 p.w., while undertaking training and development of vocational skills and applying them appropriately.

This scheme would also act as a hedge against slumps in mainstream employment as participants could return to the Job Guarantee should they be laid off, and then return to full or part-time employment when conditions improved.

Other advantages of the scheme would be to allow employers from the private sector to judge applicants skills and abilities in situ, and would also ensure that people with a disability could work in occupations specifically designed to accommodate their needs.

In tandem, the system would also provide vocational experience and serve as a pathway to higher education or entry to skilled trades.

However, in the light of the Abbott government’s crazed headlong rush to change Australia into a ‘Neo-liberal paradise’ where the workers rights along with the minimum wage are non-existent, and international corporations dictate the terms and conditions of employment, both the Job Guarantee and the fair treatment of the unemployed are unlikely to materialize.

Those who become unemployed through no fault of their own will continue to face a regime which is exploitative and a sham in its efforts to ‘re-train’ them, and continues to punish the unemployed and the disabled for the ‘crime’ being out of work in an ever shrinking job market.

For those who have not undergone one of these ‘Job Training’ sessions, the below video clip is a good example of what to expect.

It should be noted that this clip is a very clever satire made by Ministry of Truth. In fact it’s so real, it may as well be the real thing – there’s hardly any difference!

 

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12 Comments

  1. Excellent post, Edward! – there are times for sarcasm and times for simple information; and this is one when the latter paints the picture. Appallingly.

    Reply

    1. Absolutely! They’re never going to get this one off the ground. You can’t legally force people to work for below award wages with no recourse to Workers Comp if they’re injured. A smart lawyer should already be preparing a class action suit on the prisoners – oops, the Green Army ‘volunteers’ behalf
      The Green Army – what bullshit! Another nocturnal emission from Tony & The Pirates.

      Reply

  2. Some of the really smart JNS providers used to have not only a training subsidiary, but also a shelf company (usually a “business consultancy”) through which LTU’s could be churned (to furthr develop ‘core skills’ like photocopying).

    This was a most profitable enterprise given the $ value of the coupon that was stapled to the hapless victim’s forehead.

    I wonder if that rort is still getting the blind-eye treatment?

    Reply

    1. As far as I know John, yes they are and they operate under the guise of ‘reverse marketers’. These are actually the ‘strong -arm boys’ who call in those who haven’t found a job in the first three months and whom the JNS is having difficulty in placing. They usually tell the ‘job seeker’ that whatever they’re doing to find a job – it isn’t working!
      Therefore, they are going to reverse market the candidate and that the candidate must undergo two weeks intensive ‘training’. As you point out, this usually consists of photocopying and other ‘core skills’ including being made to cold call advertised vacancies ( which in all likelihood they are unqualified for) while the ‘reverse marketer’ breathes down their neck and then tries to force them into a picker-packer job or similar.

      Reply

      1. I think we all know there’s no such thing as a “labour market”. If there is it would share similar features to the market for foxes and the market for hens.

        I doubt there’s any evidence that job training has ever created one single job in net terms. I’ve no doubt that it’s probably cost some low-skilled poor bastard his existing job though. And therein lies the genius of the scheme: the endless creation or maintenance of a pool of unemployed, to be exploited for their both their political and dollar value bounties, unlike the dingo bounty where the target species actually diminished in numbers.

        Unemployment falls quickly when the economy picks up and business sees demand increasing, irrespective of all the efforts of the job trainers.

        So here we have one arm of government funding a scheme that everyone knows cannot work (the JNS) and another (the RBA) he’ll bent on keeping a buffer-stock of unemployment as a tool to fight its pretend war on inflation, more truthfully, a buffer-stock to keep the workforce disciplined.

        Is it any wonder then that a scheme like a job guarantee has trouble getting traction: there are powerful interests that just will not allow it.

      2. You’re absolutely right John. Many of the JNS providers are owned by overseas corporations such as the UK based A4e founded by ‘the fairy job mother’, Emma Harrison who paid herself a salary of $8 mill. between 2011-2012, yet her organization was unable to place even 4% of her unemployed ‘clients’ during the 2012 London Olympics. Oh yes, there is indeed gold in them thar’ job seekers. The irony of the situation as you point out is that the more people in work, the stronger the economy! The current neo-liberal paradigm of cutting jobs to strengthen the economy is like ordering a meal and then asking the waiter to strangle you while you’re eating it in order to aid digestion!

  3. Reading this made me ill. It brought back some deeply disturbing memories. Back in ’95 I had to do one of those “employment training” courses. Four weeks full time, run by some mob of “life coach” types. Our “facilitator” was a professional musician who’d apparently played with the Little River Band. Clearly he couldn’t get a gig anymore. The whole thing was beyond torturous. By the end of the four weeks, I was literally suicidal. Every piece of Edward’s description of those courses is 100% accurate. People weren’t helped by it, they were harmed by it.

    I know it’s difficult to individualise such programmes, but here I was, a guy who’d been a production manger in the soft furnishings industry, had done his own hiring and firing and therefore interviews, who could quote Nietzsche verbatim, and I had to learn how to write a fucking resume and cover letter, which I was already doing for other people, and engage in absurd and deeply insulting pop-psychology and “trust” exercises.

    The stories I could tell about that course! And indeed the next two-week one I had to do, run by an ex-Air Force wanker who drove a red Jag. Seriously, he drove a red Jag. If there’s an accurate stereotype for drivers of red Jags, he was its poster boy.

    Excellent article that should be read by anyone who wants to get an insight into what the unemployed actually have to endure to receive their miserly sum.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the comment Dan. Anyone who has never been through this thoroughly reprehensible system would find it difficult to believe.
      In light of your comment and based on my own experiences, I have updated this post to include a very clever satire. See if you can tell the difference between this clip and the real thing!

      Reply

      1. Thanks Edward. I must admit I was unable to find that video funny, other than a couple of small moments. It was far too close to the horrible truth for it to be humorous. I remember one day of the 4 week course I had to do. One of the “facilitators” was some arrogant young turd who was ex-Navy. We’d gone on a sort of boot camp thing to do these monumentally idiotic “trust” exercises. He’d obviously sussed me out as a “problem” based on the things I’d said about myself in the “getting to know you” part. Basically I’d said that my values and goals all centred around philosophy and enlightenment. That clearly rang alarm bells in their heads. I can still see the looks on their faces.

        At one stage Navy Boy took me aside and actually warned me off “influencing” the others. Needless to say I was utterly aghast. I wanted to complain to the head facilitator about his behaviour, but really in that position you’re essentially powerless because they can write a bad report about you to Centrelink if they so choose. To this day I still seethe over it. I’m not sure how many of the others could really see the true nature of what was being done to them. The fact that I could made the whole thing a hundred times worse for me.

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