THE BLOG

A Good Man Who Can't Get A Job

07/07/2014 16:14 BST | Updated 06/09/2014 10:59 BST

I know a man - let's call him John - he sustained a head injury when he was child and it has left him with an inability to write or recognise words longer than three or four letters. In spite of this he has worked for the last 30 years in two jobs - one for around 20 years the other for around 10 years.

He has proven himself to be a good and reliable worker and he wants another job but he is coming up against a whole new set of barriers - IT skills - or the lack of them in his case. There are a number of jobs where he could shine and that don't require strong reading skills. I know he has a good memory for detail - a skill he no doubt has to balance his lack of reading skills.

His problem with using computers is in part due to his reading and writing skills; but it also due to a lack of practice and not having a computer at home (I suspect he has little spare money). Most of us learned our IT skills by practicing - and regular practice requires time on a computer - most easily achieved if you own one.

Of course he is now on Job Seekers Allowance and to progress as required he needs to use a computer to job search on the Universal Job Match site and to maintain a good CV and to upload it and to make job applications which are more and more found online. If he fails to do all that is demanded of him he could lose some of his allowances.

He comes to our Job Club for help and we try, but progress is slow. We started to help him make applications but quickly concluded that if we do too much on his behalf we begin to give a false impression about his IT skills to a prospective employer - verging on dishonesty if we were challenged. So we feel we have to be careful about what is helping him and what is giving the wrong impression to an employer.

One well known supermarket chain is advertising for hundreds of new employees and they seem to be relying solely on computer based applications. First you create an account then you go through a series of questions about your details and work history and then end with a 42 question aptitude test at the end. John does not stand a chance of doing this and yet - given his work history - he could be a reliable worker for them.

Of course John is not the only person who finds the increasing use of computers - demanded by employers and by the Job Centre - a barrier to getting a job. There are a large number of people who have few IT skills and often don't own computers. Of course you not only have to buy a computer to get online - you have to pay someone to provide you with internet access - all this on a very low income in John's case.

Of course there are libraries who can give online access - but it is a limited access - very often only one or two computers for a large population.

There is no turning back the tide of change - society is becoming more and more reliant on internet access- to get a job - to stay in touch with family and friends - to do banking - to pay bills. But we should also keep in mind that there are many people who are being left behind whether it is because of a lack of skills or of money to run a computer.

Older people are also being left behind - a group that is often the most lonely and isolated is also losing touch with the rest of society and we increasingly live our lives online.

John is a nice chap and a proven worker - I doubt he ever imagined he would be in this position facing so many barriers just to get a job.

There is nothing wrong with 'nudging' and encouraging people to get online - it has much to offer - but we should keep in mind that there are some people who face more challenges or barriers than others. Getting online requires money and certain level of skills and we are likely to forget that.

This is likely to lead to yet another group of people being left behind and unable to enjoy the same rights as other citizens and unable to contribute to society unless we are very careful.

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