Thursday, 29 November 2012

The A4E Experience Part 2

In my last Single Unemployed Male blog I wrote about my experiences with Action 4 Employment (A4E) back in 2007. If you haven’t read it you can find it here.

It was when I was about two weeks from the end of my three month program that I applied for a job as an Operations Assistant at Boots’ branch in Castle Mall in Norwich. I saw their advertisement outside the store when I walked past during my lunch break, so I picked up an application form, completed their psycho-analytical test thing (more on that in a future entry), attached a copy of my CV and put in in the post box outside their store.

I was called in for an interview a few days later by one of the line managers, Nick Boyd. The interview went extremely well. We discussed the position before he took me on to the shop floor for a few tests. I passed these with flying colours before we went back up to the office. He then offered me the job on the spot, which I gratefully accepted. It was only a short-term contract, lasting for four weeks, but it was better than nothing.

The following Monday I went back to the A4E office in Norwich for what I thought would be the last time, to fill out some paperwork. This didn’t take very long, and after saying a few goodbyes to some of the people there I left the office around lunchtime, happy in the fact that I’d be starting my new job the next day.

A couple of days later I got a call on my mobile from one of the other Kates that worked for A4E. This was the Kate who was meant to be trying to find a work placement for me after Sheamus’ little brother left. From what I’d been told she used to be a television presenter, but I’d never actually seen or heard of her before I went to A4E. Which means she’ll probably be turning up on a reality television show right about now.

Kate wanted me to go into the office on my lunch break to fill out some forms. I had no idea what this was about until I saw her.

After congratulating me on getting my job Kate asked me to fill out a form which was basically the same as the one I’d filled out a few days before, but with a few differences. After I’d done my bit Kate took the form and filled in a few more boxes.

It was while she was doing this that I got a little suspicious. There was a section on the form about whether my job was temporary or permanent. When I told Kate that my job was temporary she said it didn’t matter and wrote on the form that my new job was permanent.

I signed the form as she asked, and left the office feeling a little confused. As I went off to get something to eat I began to think about some of the things I’d heard about A4E’s operation, and I began to wonder if they were trying to fiddle the figures.

From what I could gather the government paid A4E for each person they helped back into permanent employment. They didn’t get anything if the work was only temporary. Which meant that when I found a job they wouldn’t get any payment because I was only on a four week contract.

So were Emma Harrison and her cronies fiddling the figures? Was what Kate did standard practice? I doubt if I was the only one they’d done this for, and I doubt that I was the last.

When I left their office that day I hoped that it would be the last time I had to deal with them. Although I’d had a lot of success as far as getting interviews was concerned apart from the free envelopes, paper and stamps they didn’t actually do much to help me find work. They never actually put me forward for any of the jobs that they sourced, they never found me a work placement, and they certainly had very little to do with me getting the job at Boots.

I left their office thinking that the Boots job would give my CV a boost, and that it would help me find more work after my contract ended. But as 2007 became 2008 the economic climate began to change all over the world. I had no idea that my period of unemployment would last this long. I also had no idea that I’d be seeing A4E again, and that that experience would leave me just as frustrated.