Imagine this situation. You don’t have a job, there’s not enough work out there and also you are young and with little work experience. So to get experience, to network, or to simply prove that yes you can get up every day and be at work, you go and find some.
There are two opportunities. One of them is with a charitable organisation that works in the industry you would really like to get into, meaning that you would be getting experience directly in the area you’d like to work. Obviously you are applying for work anywhere, and would take jobs that have nothing to do with this, but ideally you’d love to be working in this industry.
The second one is working for free for a profitable company in an industry that is not what you’d like to be involved with. Additionally, you’ve already got lots of experience in this industry from previous part time jobs when you were at school/college/university.
Which one do you do?
I think it’s pretty sensible to say that you would take the first – clearly you still gain all the experience and everything else that you’d get from the second one, but also gives you a better chance of getting that dream job by giving you experience and letting you meet people in that industry.
This is the position that Cait Reilly was in. She would love to be a museum curator. She’s applying for work anywhere and would take a paid position that was nothing to do with museums, but she’d love to find something in a museum if she could.
So since she couldn’t find work, she volunteered at the Birmingham Pen Museum (yes, it is real, click the link, and when you’re next in Birmingham, pop along.. it’s not a big museum so it’s not going to take all day, but iirc Birmingham used to make 97% of all the fountain pen nibs in the world, so it’s an interesting piece of local history).
Yep, she volunteered there – off her own back, in a genuinely voluntary role – in order to get experience in the area she really wants to work in – experience that will help her get work elsewhere as well.
Then the job centre said she had to leave that to go and work for Poundland, a profitable company that has nothing to do with museums.
There is nothing that she could have gained from this that she wasn’t already getting from volunteering in the Pen Museum. I think that anyone reading this would see that she was much better off staying where she was and there was no reason whatsoever to make her leave.
That’s why she objected to being forced to work in Poundland. It’s not because she is a snob, or that she thinks the work was beneath her, or that she wasn’t going to even look for work if it wasn’t going to be in a museum.
But those things are what the right wing press are portraying her as saying. They conveniently fail to mention that she was volunteering before being sent on this scheme. They fail to think that as an employer, the person who has gone out themselves and volunteered to get experience is more attractive than the person who has been forced to do so. They should be applauding her for taking the action she has to stop anyone else in the same position as her from being made to do something that is so obviously idiotic.
Instead they are using her as a scapegoat, to wrongly portray the attitude that those of us campaigning against workfare have towards it.
Fuck em. Just make sure that you let people know that Cait was forced to stop volunteering in order to go and undermine peoples jobs at Poundland whenever you hear anyone talking about this story, because even though the Guardian told us that in its first article, the right wing commentators, like “Mad” Jan Moir, ignore it in favour of projecting their own views about the kind of jobs that they probably see as being for the lower orders only, and not for people like them. They would not do these jobs, they look down on the people who do, and they are unable to comprehend that not everyone thinks in the way they do.