Apologies for the two "personal" blog posts in a row, but I really wanted to write this one, for a few reasons. Regular readers will remember my last blog post, where I mentioned about the college course I had been enrolled on by the Job Centre. I just wanted to talk a little about that course, if you don't mind.
When you're on benefits and looking for work, the Job Centre like you to use their "SOC codes". What this means is that at your first interview, you discuss with the person what areas of work you're ideally looking for, what areas perhaps suit you re. your work experience, what areas are good for jobs etc. You discuss these areas, then you get allocated your "SOC code" for each, and you use that to narrow your job search down on their website. So, Admin jobs will be 4150, Librarianship 2451, and so on and so forth. Because of my previous experience, which was working in an office, a lot of jobs I go for are the Admin jobs, 4150. A lot of these jobs I'm not getting, however, because I don't have any experience with a thing called SAGE. I'm not going to tell you about SAGE because it's as boring as fuck, but it's essentially a piece of software that assists you with double-entry bookkeeping. Financial stuff, bookkeeping, accountancy - that's not really me to be honest (I did Business at A-Level but struggled with it and only got a D) so Lord knows why I agreed to do a six week SAGE course down at my local college, but I said I would be interested, and before I knew it, there I was taking the 30 minute walk down to the Arts and Technology college one cold October morning.
Six weeks, Mon-Thurs, 9-4. What the fuck was I doing? Why was I doing a course I wasn't particularly interested in? Well, fast forward six weeks, and the course is over, and my thinking has altered ever so slightly. Our exam was last Thursday, 1-3, and I think I did well. We don't find out our results for ages (about 8-10 weeks) but with 70% needed for a pass, and the ease at which I rattled through the paper, I think I've done enough. Yet for all my joy about doing well (I hope) in the exam, I feel an overwhelming sadness that the course has finished. I appreciate that's mental, considering how much I was dreading these last six weeks, but it's true - I'm already missing the course, and my fellow job-seekers on it, desperately.
It's crazy, I know. It was six weeks, that's all, but it's mad how quickly you can get attached to people, recognise their quirks and habits, identify what you like about them and how to behave around them. These people weren't my friends, and most of them, I'll probably never see ever again, but I was fortunate enough to be in a classroom with people that I liked - all of them - and I will miss them. I'll miss Howard's moments of genius. I'll miss Jon, always happy to help and patience personified. I'll miss Madeleine's laugh and I'll miss her because I secretly fancied her a bit. I'll miss Diane always looking smart. I'll miss Matt and his 'Pantera' T-shirts. I'll miss Steve - just in general. I'll miss Wera, a genuinely lovely lady. I'll miss Crystal whinging. The only person I won't miss is Becky - but that's not because I didn't like her, but because I'll hopefully be seeing a lot more of her in the future.
(We're dating, by the way. I'm not going to stalk her).
I've given them all a namecheck for two reasons. One because I know in five years time I'll have forgotten their names, so this blog post will be a handy reference to remind me of the "glory days". But secondly - and more importantly - because they were all interesting, smart, capable people, with fascinating employment histories, and they were all in that room with me because they're all currently unemployed. We were all in that room because the Job Centre put us forward for the course, and the course proved to me one very important thing - that some people's attitudes towards the unemployed need to change, and quickly. Nobody in that room was "scum", or "cheating the system", or a "layabout", or whatever adjective the Daily Mail wishes to use next. We were all in the room by 9am every day, so no-one was lounging about in bed until 10am and then sitting around watching Jeremy Kyle. Everybody in that room worked bloody hard, and several times I looked round at everyone working well and in complete silence and thought "I wish a Tory minister could come in and see us now - see that the people they constantly vilify aren't as disgusting and useless as they think".
Apologies. I'm a bit bitter about this, and I also know full well that there are people out there who "fiddle" and play the system. You don't need to tell me about them. But I do get angry when people try and bash the welfare system in this country. It makes me even angrier when the people bashing it are the Government themselves.It makes me angrier still when they don't target healthy young people like myself, but the sick and the disabled:
When I was growing up, my parents told me that it was how you treat the people with the least that says the most about you.
Cameron, Gideon Osbourne et al are easy targets here, but for once I'm not going to make this a political attack. After all, it was Labour who introduced ATOS, it's Labour who also have a leader who looks like he's never stepped foot in the real world, and it's Labour who are now occupying the same ground as the Tories. Let's not even mention the Lib Dems. Any wonder that people don't bother voting anymore?
It's Monday morning. My alarm went off at 7am (admittedly, this is only because I forgot to turn it off) and I got up to get ready for college until I remembered. None of that any more. So it is back to the old routine - scouring websites for jobs, applying for jobs, sending out CVs, writing covering letters, and then not hearing anything back 90% of the time. In a few weeks time I'll slow down for Christmas, before starting all over again with earnest in January. New Year = new start and all that shit.
Still, there are people far worse off than me. I'll never lose sight of that.