Tag Archives: work experience

Unpaid Work Schemes Are De-Skilling A Generation And Perhaps That Is The Intention


A delegate at a recent skills conference promotes the use of unpaid work schemes. h/t @screenedout

Anyone who thinks you need to carry out an unpaid work experience placement  to be qualified to work in Poundland has never shopped in fucking Poundland.  This is not being a job snob as former Employment Minister Chris Grayling claimed when people objected to Tesco using unpaid staff.  It is simply recognising that an employee in a shop adds value to that business from day one – and so they should be paid from day one.

The growth of unpaid work in the UK has been justified with familiar claims that the young are lazy, or need to be taught how to get out of bed in the morning.  There is nothing new about this.  The generation that came of age in the late 80s and early 90s were ‘slackers’ and all the same crap was said about us.  Now some of those slackers are saying the same thing about young people today.

The truth is that the young are working longer for less money than at any point in the last half century.  Many are on shitty Apprenticeships which will be paid just £3.30 an hour even after an increase which takes place next month.  Others are not even being paid at all and are working full time on Work Experience schemes whilst trying to survive on £57.90 a week Jobseeker’s Allowance.  To put this sum in context, as far back as 1989 employer based Youth Training schemes for 16-18 year olds paid a similar amount to this and usually came with a day-release placement at college once a week.  Even this has now disappeared.  Those on the government’s Work Experience scheme receive no formal training at all beyond the odd workshop in how to write a CV.  A recent survey of employers found that even 26% of young people on an Apprenticeship only received less than 3 hours training a week.

This shocking statistic comes from the Employer Perspectives Survey carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).  This large annual survey has regularly been used as evidence that unpaid work experience for the young is essential because this is what employers say they want.  The DWP’s recent disastrous #WECan campaign was launched with a gushing press release quoting from the survey that two thirds of employers say that “work experience is a crucial factor when hiring new employees”.

This was an outright lie.  What the survey actually says is that 23% of employers believe ‘relevant’ work experience is critical when recruiting staff whilst 43% said it was significant.  This is just obvious.  The first thing anyone’s going to ask when offering someone a job is whether they’ve done it before or not.  In some cases, such as being an airline pilot, it will indeed be critical that they have had some experience flying a plane.  Yet the #WeCan campaign claimed that any work experience was important, no matter how irrelevent to the job hopes of the young people concerned.

The DWP are not the only ones who have been less than honest with these survey results.  UKCES themselves have misrepresented the results to promote the value of unaid work – such as in the tweet below which claims that work experience is the most common attribute employers cite as lacking in young recruits.  A look at the accompanying graph shows that employers appeared to think that it is work or life experience that is lacking amongst new young recruits.  A look at the survey from which these figures came shows that what employers were actually asked was whether education leavers had a “lack of working world / life experience or maturity”.  Even then less than half of bosses said this was a problem amongst 16 year olds, whilst only 14% of employers thought that 18 year old college leavers lacked life/work experience or maturity.ukces-tweetWhat this survey suggests is that it is just not true that most employers are obsessed with the idea that the young are too lazy and feckless to work. And this shows in their recruitment practices.  31% of employers said they had recruited an education leaver in the last 2-3 years whilst only 29% had recruited someone over 50.

The current obsession with mass workfare is not just pandering to the needs of employers, it is pandering to the never-ending whining of the worst kind of employers – like the 10% of bosses who brazenly told UKCES that the reason they offered work experience placements was to help with the workload or because it meant they didn’t have to pay people.

Legislation is on the way which will force all young people into an unpaid traineeship, an unpaid community work placement, or if they can find one, a poverty paid Apprenticeship.  These are young people that could be studying at college, or might have gone to university had the government not tripled tuition fees.  They could be fucking about with computer code, or motorbikes, or making things to flog online.  Or making music, art or youtube movies.  From the UK’s once thriving music scene to the once thriving alternative press, young people with time on their hands have achieved incredible things which have brought benefits to the whole of society in time.  And in that process they gained far more work/life experience or maturity then any shitty work placement in a supermarket could offer them.

Unpaid work experience schemes are de-skilling the young, the opposite of their claimed intention.  But perhaps this is really why they exist.  With the number of middle class jobs expected to shrink due to automation then there will no longer be space for social mobility.  The architects of workfare schemes are simply ensuring that in future the good jobs go to their kids and the working class youth are put back in their place.

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#WEcan and We Did Fuck Up The DWP’s Online Campaign To Promote Workfare

Once again the DWP have been reduced to a laughing stock on social media after their online campaign to promote unpaid work became dominated with comments from those opposed to workfare.

The #WEcan campaign aimed to enourage employers to provide unpaid work experience placements for young people.  The DWP had also hoped that young people would post up ‘workies’ – apparently the work version of a selfie – on social media alongside their experiences of unpaid work placements.  It turns out though that the young were too lazy and feckless even to bother doing that.  Minister for Employment Priti Patel must be furious.  It wasn’t like this when she worked for the tobacco industry encouraging kids to take up smoking.

Instead what happened is that the hashtag was dominated by people furious at a government that seems obsessed with forcing young people to work for no wages.  Alongside this many people used the hashtag to pledge to boycott some of the companies named as being involved in workfare, such as @marksandspencer, and @Halfords_uk.

Amusingly the DWP also invited people to laugh at them on facebook, where unfortunately for the department the #WEcan hashtag is already in use by the Wellness Education Cannabis Advocates of Nevada. The DWP’s social media team get paid real money – our money – for this bungling shit.

In what seems like an attempt by the DWP to muddy the waters the #WEcan campaign promotes all forms of work experience, including short placements for schoolchildren or paid internships as well as workfare schemes.  This led to some of the organisations backing the campaign complaining that they only do nice work experience and they don’t support the nasty stuff.  These organisations should be at the forefront of challenging the government about ever more exploitative Jobcentre enforced workfare which can now involve 780 hours of forced, unpaid work.  Instead they are quite happily helping the DWP rehabilitate workfare with gushing tweets about how wonderful unpaid work can be.  So fuck them, they are on the wrong side.

The DWP have now resorted to drafting in Jobcentres to tweet furiously and try to rescue the campaign. Make sure it doesn’t work and tell @WEcan what you think of workfare using the hashtag #WECan.  Please spread the word.

Here’s what some people have said so far:

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#WEcan Fuck Up The DWP’s Online Campaign To Promote Mass Workfare

workfare-stick-upA whole host of corporate vultures have teamed up with the DWP to launch an online campaign celebrating young people being coerced into working for no pay for some of the richest companies in the UK.

Marks & Spencer, Whitbread, Halfords and shamefully the BBC have all signed up to the #WEcan campaign which aims to encourage even more businesses to provide unpaid work experience positions instead of employing young people properly.  The new initiative comes as the Government draws up plans to force all unemployed young people into permanent unpaid work if they are unable to find a job within six months of becoming unemployed.  This means they have to find enough grubby companies and so-called charities who are prepared to take part in this shocking exploitation.  The #WEcan campaign is part of an attempt to achieve this, so let’s fuck it up.

Already parasites from the welfare-to-work industry are tweeting using the hashtag #WEcan whilst a tumblr page has been set up calling for young people to share their experiences of workfare.  The DWP have also posted a host of youtube videos (comments currently enabled) such as this one which says that “whatever you are doing, any experience is good experience”.  Gone is any pretence at providing placements which involve real training or a chance of a job at the end.  Instead they want young people to mop floors and stack shelves for two months and have the fucking gall to claim they are doing them a favour.

Please help spread the word about this and tweet using the hashtag #WEcan.  And let’s make sure everybody knows which companies are using workfare, starting with @marksandspencer, @premierinn, @Halfords_uk, @WhitbreadPLC, @Barclays and @BBC.

For the latest news on fighting back against forced unpaid work visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

I’m still on a break.  Back properly in a week or so.

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The Biggest Attack On Wages Yet, Sectors With High Vacancies To Get Thousands Of Workfare Workers

Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th.

Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th.

The Government is claiming that up to 100,000 unpaid jobs are set to be created over the next year in a hand out to the corporate sector worth up to a billion pounds.  Astonishing some of these work experience positions will be targeted in areas which already have high numbers job vacancies making a mockery of the claim that these schemes are intended to reduce unemployment.

According to a recently updated document, produced to explain the various workfare schemes to the first victims of Universal Credit, the DWP are claiming that “An extra 100,000 work experience and sector-based work academy places have been made available between April 2015 and March 2016 for 18 to 24 year old jobseekers.” 

These are the corporate workfare schemes which have already seen almost half a million young people bullied into working for the pittance of benefits often for large national employers. This huge extension of the two schemes is being carried out at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling and this shows the real motivation for the extension of unpaid work.

In 2011 lying bastard Chris Grayling, then the Minister for Employment, launched Sector Based Work Academies, saying that they would be targeted at “sectors with high volumes of current local vacancies”.  You read that right.  Not areas of high unemployment, but the opposite, places where there are already lots of jobs.  Sector Based Work Academies can involve up to six weeks full time unpaid work and do not come with a guarantee of a job on completion.  So in sectors that are doing well, and that can afford to employ staff, the Government is encouraging employers to take on workers for free instead.  Workers that are funded by the tax payer and expected to survive on the pittance of benefits, just £57.90 a week for under 25s.

There has rarely been a more transparent measure to force down wages.  If greedy employers were expected to live by the same free-market principles inflicted on everyone else, then when demand for workers went up, they would have to provide better training and higher wages.  But the government are saying save your money, have a load of tax-payer funded free workers instead.  Britain’s biggest benefit scroungers are not the poor, but high street names like ASDA and Poundland.

Unpaid work for private companies is officially voluntary, and even illegal under minimum wage laws unless organised by the DWP.  But those who refuse corporate workfare face being sent on other mandatory forced work schemes for so-called community organisations.

It is unclear where these 100,000 new placements will come from, particularly as plans are being drawn up to force everyone under 21 into permanent workfare if they have been unemployed for over six months.  Many of the UK’s largest companies have withdrawn from unpaid work schemes completely after their carefully crafted corporate reputations disintegrated following protests from Boycott Workfare and others appalled at this grotesque exploitation of young workers.

Those protests are set to continue, with a day of action called against B&M Stores who in 2013 were even named workfare exploiter of the year by the vile welfare-to-work industry.  For more details visit (and share) Boycott Workfare’s website.

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Fair Train’s Workfare Whitewash Is Not Fair – Don’t Be Fooled


For just £80 companies can buy a shit lump of glass from Fair Train and boast to their customers how they don’t pay their staff.

“Starting in some areas at first, anyone aged 18 to 21 signing on without these basic skills will be required to undertake training from day one or lose their benefits.

If they are still unemployed after six months, they will have to start a traineeship, take work experience or do a community work placement – and if they don’t turn up, they will lose their benefits.”

George Osborne, Autumn Statement 2013

Way back in February 2012 it emerged that Tesco were recruiting unpaid workers on government workfare schemes.  The public were furious at this grotesque exploitation from one of the UK’s biggest employers and a storm of protest erupted, both online and in the streets, about private companies using workfare.

The DWP were thrown into chaos at the outrage.  Emergency meetings were held with top employers.  Government documentation which proved unemployed people were being forced to work for free was hastily re-written as DWP ministers lied that this was not the case.  Eventually, in a humiliating climbdown, it was announced that the Work Experience scheme would in future be ‘voluntary’, at least until the claimant had agreed to take up the placement at which point attendance would be forced.

Whilst this was a major victory for anti-workfare campaigners, the fight against forced unpaid work was only just beginning.   Work Experience was just one workfare scheme, many other unpaid work positions remained mandatory.  Then, over the next two years, the number of people having benefits stopped or sanctioned for not meeting increasingly petty and pointless conditions imposed by Jobcentres soared.  Poverty not seen in years re-emerged in the UK as foodbanks opened across the country to meet the desperate need of those stripped of benefits.  A climate of fear took hold in Jobcentres, as many advisors ruthlessly bullied and harassed unemployed people in order to meet unofficial targets to sanction as many claims as possible.  The latest figures show that more people are having benefits sanctioned than ever before – 227,629 sanctions were imposed in the last three months of 2013.

In this toxic environment claimants have reported that if they refuse a voluntary workfare scheme, such as Work Experience, they are threatened with different, mandatory workfare schemes instead.  Despite the rules, many people are still being given the impression by some Jobcentres that Work Experience, Traineeships and other unpaid work schemes for private companies are mandatory.  And in his Autumn Statement last year George Osborne announced that young people who refuse a Traineeship or Work Experience position will be sent on a six month unpaid Community Work Placement instead.

If there were any doubts before that Work Experience and Traineeships were not forced work then George Osborne has laid them to rest.  Whilst his plans have not been fully implemented yet, the Government’s intention is clear.  Young people who do not take up unpaid work, for companies like Poundland and Virgin, will be sent to carry out 780 hours forced labour instead or lose their benefits.  Traineeships, and the Work Experience scheme are workfare, there can be no argument about that anymore.

This is why it is genuinely astonishingly that a government funded body, appallingly backed by the TUC, should still be offering a Work Experience Quality Standard which attempts to claim these schemes are voluntary.

Fair Train sell these Quality Standards to companies who must then go through the rigorous procedure of filling in a short form and sending them a cheque.  This will allow their workfare crimes to be washed away as Fair Train pronounce their use of unpaid workers is voluntary and even the “first step into a dream career”.

Of course the truth emerges when Fair Train try to sell this shady racket to employers.  Work Experience can help with recruitment because it give  employers a chance to ‘try before they buy’  says Fair Train – showing this vile organisation really views young people as mere commodities to be exploited and discarded as greedy employers see fit.

Happily the Fair Train quality standard has turned out to be a dismal failure.  Last year they organised a week celebrating unpaid work which turned out to be an embarrassing flop.  Since then barely over 160 employers have bought one of their Quality Standards, including a car washing firm, a fried chicken shop and several charity shops.  Dream careers indeed.

So desperate have Fair Train been to flog their workfare badge of shame, and their comedy workfare trinkets, that they have even attempted to hijack the hugely successful Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign launched in response to the latest mass workfare scheme.   Claimant’s rights website Refuted recently revealed on twitter that Fair Train had encouraged them to sign up, presumably after securing their details from the Keep Volunteering Voluntary website.  Refuted have long campaigned against exactly the kind of unpaid work that Fair Train are so keen to re-habilitate.  Those running this shady outfit are clearly not the sharpest tools in the box, although they are tools.

It is sad to see that several charities who say they do not participate in workfare, including MIND, Scope, Oxfam and Shelter, all have shops who have signed up to the Fair Train workfare badge of shame.  This is likely to have been done at a local level and hopefully will be dealt with by head offices.  Most of Fair Train’s customers seem to be grouped around small geographical areas, suggesting they are employing telesales staff to go through local business directories to flog their services.  Charities opposed to workfare should ensure that all of their local shops and offices are aware of this practice.

No-one needs these clowns. Organisations opposed to forced unpaid work can sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement.  It doesn’t cost anything and those behind it are genuinely independent, unlike Fair Train, who are funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a body accountable to Iain Duncan Smith.  There is nothing fair about the unpaid work that @FairTrainOrg celebrate, it is exploitation and it is not volunteering.

Fair Train currently have a handy list of employers who don’t pay their workers wages available at: http://www.fairtrain.org/organisations

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The Tories And The TUC Are Both Hypocrites Over Unpaid Work

Interns-workers-and-the-minimum-wage1The breath-taking hypocrisy of both the Tory Party and the TUC was laid bare this week after an astonishing document emerged which advises Tory Party MPs on how to dodge minimum wage legislation by renaming interns as ‘volunteers’.

The leaflet, which was published on the Graduate Fog website, provides legal advice on minimum wage legislation along with a template letter that can be used to fob off any enquiries to MPs about their use of unpaid interns.  This shoddy attempt to dodge the rules on paying workers comes in the same week that David Cameron announced in Parliament that his Government was naming and shaming firms which don’t pay minimum wage.

It is not just the Tory Party who are shameless hypocrites when it comes to unpaid work however.  The TUC have been quick to criticise this document, with a press release claiming they are ‘disappointed that MPs are being advised on how to get round the minimum wage’.

Yet late last year the very same TUC were involved in the Week of Workfare, a DWP funded celebration of unpaid Work Experience.  The TUC have also backed a Quality Standard award for work experience – even going as far as supporting a document which called for companies which use unpaid workers to be paid by the tax payer.  This is despite the TUC claiming to be opposed to workfare, which is what the Government’s Work Experience scheme is.  As pointed out by @boycottworkfare, last year’s vote at the TUC Conference to campaign against workfare seems to have been completely ignored.

It appears that the TUC leadership think unpaid work for largely middle class graduates wanting to work for the Tory Party is disappointing – but workfare for the poor is just fine.  You might even question whose side they are on, because at the moment it doesn’t look much like it’s ours.

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DWP Using Workfare Staff To Promote Workfare

With Employment Minister Esther McVey too lazy or gutless to defend the Government’s floundering workfare programme, the DWP have resorted to using people on workfare themselves to justify the scheme.

As part of the DWP’s social media fightback, @SouthLondonJobs will be holding an online event tomorrow promoting the Work Experience scheme.  Guest editor Nisha will be editing the twitter feed for a day which has been dubbed #TakeOverDay – so take it over.

According to @DWPgovuk Nisha will be explaining how taking part in Work Experience can boost your employability, except that sadly hasn’t happened in her case yet or she wouldn’t be on workfare.

The DWP will no doubt claim tomorrow that unpaid Work Experience for private companies like Argos, or even the public sector like the DWP, is entirely voluntary.  As most claimants know, this is far from the case in practice and George Osborne confirmed this in his Autumn Statement when he announced that young people who refuse unpaid work experience will instead be sent to carry out 780 hours community work.

But we shouldn’t take it out on Nisha, who will be tweeting from @SouthLondonJobs tomorrow – she’s one of us, not one of them.  If she refuses to promote workfare then she may find herself sanctioned after all.  And no sending her out for a long weight or left-handed screwdriver.

Instead tomorrow offers the chance to tell twitter about the realities of workfare, and don’t forget to use the DWP’s latest hashtag #job2014.

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