Posted: 6 Dec 2018
Category: Career Advice
At a recent event, I spoke about a “barrier to employment” that took me by surprise back in the late 80’s when I left Secretarial College. I was advised by the FAS office to think about taking the ‘Ballymun’ address off my CV and maybe use a relation's address instead to give myself a better chance at getting an interview. An interview for work experience, I might add considering that we were at almost 17% unemployment at the time. On the bus home from Westmorland Street I was trying to think if I had any Posh Aunties.
I'd hate to think that prejudices like this still exist today, but can only imagine how a person who has to put a hotel address on their CV now feels! The Minister for Housing was in attendance, a lovely man Damien English, so I felt it had to be mentioned as the number of families living in Emergency Hotel Accommodation rises.
Other barriers to employment exist today though too, for example education and minimum qualification requirements still pose an issue. This is particularly unfair where it is not really a requirement for the job, but just a company policy or nice to have “just for the sake of it”. Lots of people leave education early for various reasons, most of which have nothing to do with academic ability. For example, it could be financial pressures or family situations at that time. Doesn’t mean that a person is stupid or lacks ability, commitment or competency to do a good job. In my experience, I have found quite the opposite working alongside both college graduates and employees who started working at 16-18 years of age. As one famous Dragon’s Den contestant said, “Daddy can’t buy you cop on in Trinity College”! I’ll say no more on that subject.
Of course, promoting education and encouraging students to stay on in education longer is a great thing and we need to promote it; we just need to get the balance right when it comes to employment opportunities.
Thankfully I’ve noticed some of the larger organisations are copping on, for example we did some big campaigns recently where educational requirements were removed and instead employers were looking for candidates with certain competencies and transferable skills that would fulfil the requirements of the role. They would train up everything else once they got the right people. These companies realise the potential of having both graduates and non-graduates working together in one team, this makes up for any shortfalls in common sense and problem solving skills. Non-graduates are also hard workers, have an ability to empathise with clients on a different level and they become very loyal employees, something that’s very important as we reach almost “full employment” which currently stands at 5.3%.
We need to also have opportunities for early school leavers such as traineeships and apprenticeships. Welcoming young people into the workforce in any capacity as soon as they leave school will help not only them but also our economy and communities in general building a stable workforce.
Another area we looked at was digital application processes. These can pose a barrier to employment also to jobseekers who don’t have IT skills and who don’t need to use computers in the course of their job. Why should someone have to spend 45 minutes filling out an on-line assessment, uploading files etc., when applying for a basic entry level general operative job, or to be a part time cleaner? They may not be able to apply for the job unless they have the support of someone who is IT savvy - they may just give up. We feel there should be options, alternative routes for applications - not just one size fits all.
Welfare Dependency or as we hear people saying the "Benefit Trap" is another issue today. From what we can see and what we are hearing from employers, there is a real “fear” amongst jobseekers at the moment that are currently in receipt of benefits and living in private rental properties. It’s not that these people don’t want to work! It’s not that they aren’t capable of working, but you need to look more deeply into their situation before you judge.
Take for example, a family who are currently renting in Dublin or one of the larger cities. Rents could be as high as €1,800 - €2,000, so during the recession the main bread winner became unemployed and now they’re in receipt of rent support/supplements. They could now be fearful that if they take on a job and their pay exceeds certain thresholds that they may lose the roof over their heads. They could potentially lose the safety net of ‘rent supplements’ and could possibly be unable to afford escalating rent prices if they have to do this alone on one wage.
Some employers have reported a feeling of being “interviewed” by jobseekers about the amount of overtime they would be expected to work? They get requests from candidates asking if they can only work 3 days a week etc., . The general consensus is not that the candidates do not want to work but that they are trying to stay safe and make good decisions for their families. Which to be honest is quite understandable taking into account all the publicity about the current housing crisis.
I’ve tried to research this more, reading literature online regarding how Rent Supplements work / HAP etc., but it’s a bit of a minefield and possibly the concerns and fears are unfounded, maybe the Government has structures in place to help people out as they transition back into employment? Maybe this information needs to be communicated more clearly to those affected.
At JobAlert.ie we love helping all job seekers and we are extremely passionate about helping “disadvantaged jobseekers” because we believe and know that a job is much more than a pay cheque!
Working gives people a sense of purpose, it’s good for our mental health, builds self-esteem and self-development. It sets good role models for siblings and changes family dynamics, hopefully breaking the cycle of poverty.
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