Tuesday, 31 May 2016

On the road to nowhere: taken for a ride by Halfords!

The weekly Tameside TUC protests outside Ashton-under-Lyne  Jobcentre, frequently provide us with some really useful nuggets of information about the governments welfare-to-work training schemes and how people feel about them.

Last week, we learned from a disgruntled 19-year-old unemployed young man, from Ashton-under-Lyne, who we will call Stuart, how he had been caught- up and conned by several organisations who were ostensibly offering him what he believed, were opportunities for learning, training and future employment, with the well-known retailer, Halfords, who sell bicycles and car parts from the Snipe Retail Park on the outskirts of Ashton.

Stuart, who is interested in mechanics and has 9 GCSE's, including science, maths and German, was first approached by 'Positive Steps' who are based in the Clarence Arcade, Stamford Street, Ashton. They help people under the age of 20 to get jobs and are based in the same building which once housed, 'Connexions', who offered career advice for young people. By email, he was told about a course with Halfords, which could lead to a job as a 'sales assistant'. Ashton Jobcentre, who were supporting the course, referred him to another 'mickey-mouse' outfit called 'Qube Learning', who are based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

Having signed-up for the course, Stuart attended a one-month course in Manchester, at the Arora 4-star hotel on Princess Street, where he undertook Maths and English functional skills, and a retail qualification. He then commenced a one-month 'unpaid,' in-house, placement with Halfords working full-time (9-4 five days per week) where he stacked shelves and organised the warehouse. After attending an interview, he was told by Halfords that they would contact him but they never did. Stuart says that he didn't miss a single day while he'd been on the placement.

He told Northern Voices that when he phoned Halford's on the number he'd been given, he had been unable to get through to speak to anybody about the outcome of the job interview. Neither did he get much change out of Qube Learning, who claim to be "a leading training provider specialising in apprenticeships, NVQs, Traineeships, core skills, bespoke, accredited courses." They effectively told him that they knew nothing about it and had only provided the course. 

Stuart was never told if he had acquired the retail qualification, but he later discovered that of the 10 to 11 people on the course, only two people under 18-years-of-age had got all the qualifications, but those over 18-years of age had not. However, it is not known if even these two people were offered jobs. He thinks that those people under 18-years-of-age, may have been more attractive to an employer because they could be paid less. 

Although Stuart is currently unemployed, he says that he will not be claiming state benefits from the Jobcentre because of the 'restrictions' placed on Jobseeker's which makes it difficult for him to look and obtain work . He told Northern Voices that a year ago, he'd been sanctioned for one-month by Ashton Jobcentre because they claimed he'd spent too much time job searching and hadn't received enough interviews. Consequently, he had lost his accommodation and had finished up homeless on the streets. He says that he will be taking up the matter of government training schemes with his local Member of Parliament to see if he can get any redress to his grievances.

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