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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 479-v
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Work and Pensions Committee
The role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system
Wednesday 30 October 2013
Lena Tochtermann, Kevin Green, Damian Kenny and Alan Townsend
Evidence heard in Public Questions 378 467
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Work and Pensions Committee
on Wednesday 30 October 2013
Dame Anne Begg (Chair)
Ms Anne Marie Morris
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Lena Tochtermann, Principal Policy Adviser, Labour Markets and Agility Policy, Confederation of British Industry, Kevin Green, Chief Executive Officer, Recruitment and Employment Confederation, Damian Kenny, Strategic Account Director, DWP, Monster Government Solutions, and Alan Townsend, Senior Vice-President, Sales Readiness and Business Operations, Europe, Monster Government Solutions, gave evidence.
Q378 Chair: Can I begin by thanking the witnesses for coming along this morning? This is our penultimate evidence session on the role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system. I will make sure I have my teeth in properly and can get the words out. Can I perhaps at the beginning, ask the panel to introduce themselves for the record, please?
Damian Kenny: Certainly, yes. Good morning, everyone. My name is Damian Kenny. I am from Monster Government Solutions and I am the DWP Account Director.
Alan Townsend: Good morning, I am Alan Townsend. I am also from Monster; I am the Senior Vice-President of Business Operations for Monster in Europe.
Lena Tochtermann: I am Lena Tochtermann from the CBI. I head up our labourmarket policy team.
Kevin Green: I am Kevin Green, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.
Q379 Chair: You are very welcome this morning. Could I perhaps begin with the CBI and ask about employers’ attitudes to offering more permanent work?
We know that Jobcentre Plus advisers spend quite a lot of time liaising with employers to set up work experience-particularly for young people. Obviously, this is a good thing to do, but it rarely comes with a firm offer of a permanent job or even an interview.
Do you think there is more that employers could do in looking to see what the end offer could be to claimants that might make them realise both the importance of the work experience and that there actually is something for them at the end of it?
Lena Tochtermann: Work experience is really important. A lot of our members are committed to providing work experience. We should not be distracted by trying necessarily to have a job offer at the end of things like that. We want to make sure that we have the widest possible range of options out there for young people.
Many employers who, for example, do not have vacancies at the moment but want to do something to help young people can offer work experience. That said, Jobcentre Plus could do more to work around some of that, to offer advice and, where possible, work with employers to ensure there are interviews and other such things.
Q380 Chair: Surely, however, it would be a good thing for the employer to be able to see the applicant in action, if there may be a job at the end of it-without any formal obligation to give them the job. There has to be a job there somewhere, otherwise young people are going from work experience to work experience to work experience, but never actually get into the work force.
Lena Tochtermann: The evidence from the DWP itself shows that work experience is quite effective at getting young people into the work force. We do see a lot of people going into the workplace. What is important from the work experience point of view is having a stint in the workplace, building up some of those links, getting soft skills and building the connections that then help young people move into work after that-be that with the employer they did the work experience with or with another employer. What the evidence shows us, however, is that a lot of young people actually stay with the employer they have.
Q381 Chair: Of course, there have to be the jobs for there to be an offer. My understanding is that less than a third of all employers and a fifth of smaller employers actually use Jobcentre Plus to recruit. What is Jobcentre Plus doing wrong that means employers are not using their services?
Lena Tochtermann: This is a real issue. We are seeing that Jobcentre Plus’s market share amongst employers is still fairly low. For us, a lot of this comes back to customer experience. We do hear great stories about employers working with Jobcentre Plus, but we also hear the other side. A lot of that really depends on the relationship at a local level-and, particularly with large employers, the relationship management they have with their relationship manager.
We need to make sure that employers get the best customer service when they come into Jobcentre Plus. We have had stories where employers have called up and wanted to get involved in well known national schemes, and Jobcentre Plus has been fairly non-plussed and there has not been much response.
Q382 Chair: Mr Green, what are your members doing that Jobcentre Plus is not doing? There obviously are jobs being advertised in your area.
Kevin Green: They spend a lot of time working with their clients to understand the job requirements. Our members are experts in trying to work with employers to get underneath the surface of what their requirements are. It is not just about skills; sometimes it is about culture; sometimes it is about a whole range of different attributes that they are looking for.
They spend time doing that and they provide a high-quality experience. Many employers get an inconsistent experience when they are working with Jobcentre Plus. You have to remember that 47% of all Jobcentre Plus jobs come from agencies. We brokered a partnership agreement with Jobcentre Plus to get the public and private sectors working more effectively together. On a national level, it is great and we have had great experiences on the ground with many local offices working really effectively with the private sector, but we have also had experiences where it does not work very well.
Again, that is one of our issues: how do we get Jobcentre Plus to invest in the private sector and work more effectively with it?
Q383 Chair: In the ones where it does not work, is that due to the personal context? Does it depend on who is the manager at the Jobcentre Plus or who the people running the private recruitment service are?
Kevin Green: Quite often, there is a high turnover of staff. You build a relationship; the team changes; it is difficult to maintain. Clearly, some people are more interested in actively working with the private sector than other people within the staff of Jobcentre Plus. It is based on the ability to build the relationship and also the ability of our members to spend some time building those relationships, because they perceive it as in their interest.
In some parts of the country, our members are probably more actively engaged than in others. It is not all down to them; some of it is down to our members seeing the benefits.
Q384 Chair: One of the complaints we have heard is that Jobcentre Plus will only advertise lowerlevel jobs-entry-level jobs or retail and hospitality jobs. Actually, any kind of job that would require someone with a degree never gets anywhere near Jobcentre Plus. Is that a fair criticism?
Kevin Green: Most people in the higher-end professional areas of activity would look at different routes to finding job opportunities. They may go in if they have to sign on, so they may be experiencing Jobcentre Plus in terms of benefits, but in terms of actually helping them find a job, they will probably do it themselves through job boards, through our members and through a range of different networking opportunities they would have to find their next availability.
Not many professionals would see Jobcentre Plus as providing that level of service. This is partly because a lot of the activity in Jobcentre Plus is based around benefits. They do not spend a huge amount of time understanding the jobs market and talking to employers.
Q385 Chair: You are now advertising most of these jobs on behalf of the DWP. Is it a fair criticism that it is mostly lowerlevel jobs on your system?
Damian Kenny: What we have seen since Universal Jobmatch was introduced is actually the other side of that; as the system is online and self-service, it opens itself up to a wider segment of the employee population than previous services may perhaps have done. If you look at the data on the service now, there is quite a high proportion of skilled jobs.
I take Kevin’s point, however, that perhaps there is something cultural in how jobseekers wish to engage. People with professional qualifications may not look immediately to Jobcentre Plus as being their route to finding a new job-or simply finding a job.
Q386 Chair: In the same way as Jobcentre Plus does not have small employers using their services, is it true of your system that a much smaller proportion of smaller employers would in fact advertise on Universal Jobmatch?
Damian Kenny: That is where we see particular challenges for employers in using Universal Jobmatch. If we think about the demographic of employers out there, some of the larger employers will have dedicated HR and recruitment functions and will be very used to using online and digital systems, whereas smaller enterprises-your mechanic down the road or your plumber-are used to picking up the phone and asking the Jobcentre to post their jobs for them. This is a challenge for DWP: to communicate with the employers and make them aware of the benefits of the service for them.
Q387 Debbie Abrahams: I was just interested in the proportion of members of the CBI that are actually engaged with work experience, but also more generally with JCP job offers. You said "a lot", but I was unsure what "a lot" was.
Lena Tochtermann: We do not have a percentage there.
Q388 Debbie Abrahams: Could you hazard a guess? Is it 50%, 70% or less?
Lena Tochtermann: This is putting my finger in the air, but I would say probably at least 70% of CBI members would offer work experience. Not necessarily all would offer work experience through Jobcentre Plus, however; I can double check and come back to you.
Q389 Debbie Abrahams: Similarly, are larger businesses more likely to do that than smaller businesses?
Lena Tochtermann: Larger businesses generally have more resources to do it, but smaller businesses might do it on a smaller scale. It is perhaps not seen as much as it is with some of the larger companies. The issue with engaging with Jobcentre Plus, particularly for those companies, is the level of customer service; with getting smaller businesses in, word of mouth really matters. The offflow targets have not always been helpful here.
Q390 Graham Evans: I have a quick point on Jobcentre Plus and the opportunities for executives, professionals and senior management who are made redundant. For those positions, you have to sign on to get your national insurance paid for; that was my experience. These are executive, seniorposition people coming into Jobcentre Plus; is there not an opportunity when they come to sign on, as it were, for you to grab on to them and feed them in to your members? You could say, "Executives are looking for positions," and they would be sent down a different avenue.
Kevin Green: We ran a scheme with DWP at the beginning of the recession for professionals who were going into Jobcentre Plus. They recognised they did not have the skills around giving advice on CVs and on the right way of finding opportunities for those types of people. They commissioned our members to provide that service.
There was a little bit of funding for our members to provide advice around CVs, using job boards and how to think about interview technique, because quite often these executives have not been out of work for a long period. It was highly successful. We ran it for about 18 months. Again, we would like to work more actively with Jobcentre Plus on such things, but all the funding got sucked away into the Work Programme.
Q391 Stephen Lloyd: When you say it was highly successful, do you mean that it was highly successful in terms of job outcomes?
Kevin Green: Yes, it was. The figure was that over 40% of people referred to our members had found a job within three months, which the DWP thought was very successful. Remember: this was 20082009, when we were experiencing the full difficulties in terms of the labour market as we went through the recession. It was very positive.
Q392 Stephen Lloyd: On one level, that is an impressive figure. Did the DWP have figures for the outcomes they managed to achieve for professionals so they could cross-tab it?
Kevin Green: I do not know. The feedback to us was, "We need the funding." I cannot remember the budget, but it was approximately £10 million or £12 million. It was not a huge amount of expenditure over a twoyear period, but it was sucked into the Work Programme.
Obviously, at that time, that was the priority. It was seen by the DWP-I am sure you will ask them questions about this-that their priority was to ensure they were providing services to the people who were becoming long-term unemployed and were getting stuck in the system. There was a feeling that these people were better prepared to help themselves than others. They made a choice around prioritisation.
However, it does demonstrate the ability of the public and private sectors to work effectively to get people into the jobs that are available in the labour market.
Q393 Graham Evans: What area are you talking about?
Kevin Green: That was geographic, so it was across the whole of the UK.
Q394 Ms Morris: We have talked quite a bit about the diversity of the types of jobs out there and the fact that there are quite a few at the lower end. We all agree the upper end is not really quite catered for by the system as it stands now. However, the bit we have not reached, whatever the nature of the job and whatever the nature of the candidate, is how we can improve the matching. It seems to me that this is a bigger policy issue. This is not just about-dare I say it-technology. We are going on later to talk about the technicalities of how that does or does not work, but it seems to me as if there are some policy issues.
My first question is to you, Kevin. What could we do to try to get that match between the quality job and the quality candidate, given you have this range of candidates and range of jobs and, in a sense, your organisation are the experts?
Kevin Green: There is quite a lot in that. There certainly are some issues around time. The experience of most people when they go into a Jobcentre Plus is that they have 10 minutes with someone. If you were to see one of our members and they were preparing for your job, they might well spend an hour going through your CV and trying to get the best they could out of you so they could present you more positively to the employer. Our members will spend a huge amount of time talking to the employer about exactly what they are looking for. Jobcentre Plus does not do that. They tend to just take the job and do it at quite a superficial level.
You certainly have time. There is also the question of skills and capability. We spend a lot of time making sure that recruitment consultants have the skills and capability to do their job. We have codes of conduct; we have professional qualifications; we have a professional institute. You will often find that people who work in Jobcentre Plus have not spent enough time thinking about that matching activity and the skills that are required.
You also have to go back to the role of Jobcentre Plus. Many people’s view of Jobcentre Plus is that it plays a policing role around benefits. Again, if you are going in to get job advice, you may be hesitant about being incredibly open and trusting Jobcentre Plus, because you may be thinking, "They might be trying to find out whether I am really unemployed and I am concerned about my benefits."
There are a lot of things going on. You do not have a lot of time; you have to check on benefits; you do not really know the labour market, what is going on or what employers are really looking for; and you may not have the skills.
There is a huge amount of activity there you would need to focus on if you were really saying that you wanted Jobcentre Plus to play the role that our members play.
Q395 Ms Morris: Realistically, you have the partnership agreement, which, as you say, works. It is good in parts and it does not work so well in other parts. What could be done going forward, either in terms of a move from DWP or a move from you and your members, to try to look at trying to get this to work better? It seems to me that this is partly about the relationship between the private sector and DWP, and it is partly about maybe beginning to segment different types of jobs and people in order to decide how much time it is worth spending on each category.
Kevin Green: Yes. Up and down the county, a lot of our members are spending time going in to run clinics and little sessions within Jobcentre Plus. They are doing that because they perceive there is some longterm value in the relationship-and it does help them get candidates for some of the jobs.
If we were really moving this to another level, we would need to make it much more contractual. There would need to be a commercial relationship between our members to provide some additional value that Jobcentre Plus could then provide to jobseekers, whether it is to help around CV building, interview practice or a whole range of different skills that are most probably required for people-particularly people who have fallen out of work.
For us, one of the issues about the funding of training and development you can access via Jobcentre Plus is that you have to wait until you have been unemployed six months. This is about prevention. The private sector can work with the public sector earlier to get the people who have perhaps just fallen out of the job market and are looking for a job into a job quickly.
Let us put some investment into that part of the market to get those people back into work quickly, so they do not become a drain on the system.
Q396 Ms Morris: You are saying that the Government should put some more money up front to try to manage this matching better.
Kevin Green: They also have to recognise that it might be better to harness some of the private sector and get us to provide the bits they are not strong at, rather than try to invest tons of money to train benefit advisers and trying to turn them into recruitment consultants. That might be a long, hard and protracted process; it might be better to harness us and get us to provide things.
Ms Morris: It would be winwin, because we would spend less on benefits and people would feel fulfilled, because they would have jobs.
Kevin Green: Yes, absolutely.
Ms Morris: That is really useful.
Q397 Glenda Jackson: I wanted to refer back to the point you have expanded on in responding to Anne Marie, which is the issue of Jobcentre Plus in a way having split responsibilities, because it is also a benefit agency, as you have elucidated.
Kevin Green: It is.
Glenda Jackson: Hearing your replies, the success would seem to be with people who are easily employable, if you see what I mean. The Government is constantly telling us that the churn is such that the majority of people who fall out of jobs get back in again, but the whole thrust of the foundation of the changes that are coming down is for those people who have been unemployed for decades and who are patently not ready to work-and, also, the young.
We have heard from the representative of the CBI about the kind of soft issues at which our young people are currently failing. Your people cannot help tackle that fundamental issue. You are not in the business of training yourselves; you are not in the business of putting the unemployed with trainers. There is still this consistent split with what the Government tell us is the focus of their attention, namely to get the longterm unemployed into work and off the benefit system and also to assist young people.
There seems to be a mismatch both in what you have said, Mr Green, and what you have said, Ms Tochtermann, about the CBI, where people seem to be passing the buck all the time. "We would use them if they had these skills, but they do not have these skills and we do not have the time to give them to them." How would you match that up?
Lena Tochtermann: We need to get better at assessing people when they come into Jobcentre Plus. There are diagnostic tools in Jobcentre Plus to do that, but the feedback we get from businesses is that they do not always work yet. We are very much in favour of the Australian jobseeker’s classification instrument, which I know the Committee has looked at as well. This would help because, when people come into a Jobcentre Plus, you have a better understanding of the barriers they have and you can forward them to specialist charities, the third sector, the Work Programme or Work Choice to help them deal with some of that-and perhaps spend less resource on people who will find their way back into work earlier. This can then help tailor some of the interventions with businesses as well.
It will help strengthen the relationship with businesses, because it will reduce the amount of frustration we have at the moment from members. At the moment, people come in and, as Kevin said, very little time is spent with them. It is often not quite understood, perhaps, where the barriers are. There are very stringent offflow targets in Jobcentre Plus. They have targets on how many interviews they are sending people to. The feedback we receive from our members is that they often see people forwarded to them by Jobcentre Plus who simply are not up to the job and who do not understand what the job is about, who will then often fall out of the process. If we can get that right, we will get employers more involved as well.
Kevin Green: With school leavers-people coming out of the education system-there is an absolute imperative to get them some work experience, whether that is through the different schemes the Government runs or getting them into a temporary job. However, employers are very clear that, when times are tough, they hire for experience rather than potential. What we have really have to do is help young people get some experience of being in the workplace. That will benefit them.
The other thing you have to recognise is that one of the things we have worked on really actively with Jobcentre Plus-Jobcentre Plus have done very well on this over the last few years-is recognising that temporary work is a stepping stone to full-time work. If we can get people into some kind of temporary work, 90% of employers take people on from temporary work and make them permanent employees. It is a fantastic stepping stone into a full-time, permanent job. We have worked actively to promote that to Jobcentre Plus and they have certainly responded. It is working to some extent.
For people who are really hardcore and have been out of work for more than two years, you do need some kind of intense training programme. There already are things like the Work Programme. It is a really tough challenge, because you are looking at selfesteem issues, confidence issues and skill issues. You are trying to work on all of those things at the same time so that someone is ready to be put in front of an employer. Some of the feedback we get about Jobcentre Plus suggests that one of the reasons why some employers do not use it after the first few experiences is that they get candidates who are simply not job-ready.
You might be spending a day interviewing people, and six people are sent along. Two do not turn up and, after four or five minutes, you know the four who have turned up are not ready for the job. The employer’s perspective would be, "I have spent two days interviewing people and you have not put a realistic candidate in front of me. I am going to find another route to get someone to fill this job."
Q398 Stephen Lloyd: Would it be an appropriate ask for Jobcentre Plus never to send anyone out who is not jobready and, if someone is not jobready, for it to take the steps to ensure that they are?
Kevin Green: The problem is around how you are measured, is it not? They are running the benefits system; they want to see people actively looking for a job. One way claimants prove this-or the statistics by which this is measured-is by going out and putting themselves in front of employers. The problem from the employer’s perspective is that, "If they are not ready for this job and there is no way I am going to appoint them, I am wasting my time looking at people you are putting in front of me who I will never hire."
You are right: in an ideal world, you would want them to ensure people have the skills and are jobready, i.e. they have been through Government programmes and are ready, and you are not putting people out for interview who are clearly not capable of doing the job.
Chair: I am going to interrupt there, because we have more questions on this issue; we will explore it in a bit more detail.
Q399 Ms Morris: I would quite like your views on the Youth Contract Wage Incentive programme. We started out with 160,000 of these Youth Contract Wage Incentive payments available and yet we have only had a take-up of 2,000 in the first 14 months. Why is the take-up so low and is there something we could do to it to make it more attractive? Lena, let us hear your view first and then, perhaps, we will come to Kevin.
Lena Tochtermann: Large employers have been telling us for a while that the real issue here is they are not looking for cash from Government to help them employ young people; what they are looking for is help with training, which reflects some of the things we have already talked about here today. This is what we called for when we did our Action for Jobs report in 2011. We called for a training subsidy for large employers who would take on somebody for 12 months to ensure sustainability as well.
We were not that surprised to see a lower takeup of the incentive, from that perspective. That said, there were a number of other factors that have not helped. One of them was the context of the launch, when work experience was very much in the media, which led to some employers shying away from being involved-trying to do the right thing and then being in the media for being seen to be doing the wrong thing while trying to do the right thing.
We were trying to narrow it down too much by routing it through the Work Programme, which I know has been addressed. There has probably been an issue around raising awareness levels. The marketing freeze at DWP has not helped here at all and we still do not have a very good local delivery infrastructure. Some of the feedback we had from employers, after the scheme was announced, was that when they called the hotline and were routed through to the local Jobcentre Plus, they were told, "We do not know what you are talking about." That does not help. This was what the DWP’s interim analysis found.
We need to see real ownership in Jobcentre Plus to promote these schemes that are out there. We need to make it clear, working with employers, that to use the incentive for training purposes would help. That is what the 1624 Alliance does, which Morrisons is involved in, for example. It seems to be working fairly well.
Q400 Ms Morris: What you are saying is we almost need a relaunch, in the sense that people need to know it is out there all over again and the different stakeholders need to engage with it all over again. You also made an interesting point about training, however, and the example of Morrisons and how they use it. Perhaps there is also a message about trying to rephrase what the money can be used for and maybe give case studies and examples of people using it in a different way.
Could there be any form of tweak in the way the money is provided within the scheme? We have to make it more attractive and more focused on your key point, which is "We want help with the training, not just a cash handout from the Government."
Lena Tochtermann: You could make it a training subsidy. The other thing we have seen from members is sheer confusion about the amount of initiatives that are out there. We did a mapping exercise about two years ago; a lot of those schemes are still out there. We did not finish, but we reached a figure of about 48 different schemes that could help an employer take on or train a young unemployed person.
Large employers find it easier than small employers to try to get their head around such things, because they have people employed to help them do that. Even then, however, it can be a waste of time. You will not get small employers to engage with that-and that is reflected in some of the figures the Chair cited around engagement of different sizes of employers as well.
We need to think about training, but we also need to think about how we can simplify the system and make it easier for employers, young people and also for Jobcentre Plus to understand, because some of the evidence shows that Jobcentre Plus does not always know what is out there or how to promote it.
Kevin Green: First, employers are completely unaware of the scheme. We did a survey recently of 600 employers. Not one was aware of the scheme-not even one. There is a huge issue in terms of the fact that we have a scheme and we have some money, but we are not making employers aware of it.
The other issue is that, if you think about where jobs are being created in our economy at the moment, they are often with small and medium-sized companies. They do not use Jobcentre Plus; when they do use Jobcentre Plus, they perhaps do not have a great experience. If you think of SMEs as the target market, there is no marketing campaign. They do not use Jobcentre Plus. How are they ever going to be made aware of this?
That is a fundamental issue. Secondly, if they do find out about it and they phone up the helpline or they go to a Jobcentre, the Jobcentre Plus might say, "We are not aware of it. What are you talking about?" Even the ones that do find out about it and then try to link into Jobcentre Plus do not have a great experience.
There are several building blocks in the way of raising awareness and making it easy for employers to find out about it. The incentive itself is not great. From a training perspective, employers think, "If this person is not employable, I am not likely to take them on without an incentive; is £2,200 enough for me to invest in training to get them to the standard where I would find them acceptable?" That is not a huge amount of money to train somebody.
There are a lot of things about the scheme itself. From a conceptual point of view, it is a really good idea. It could work, but you have to think about the marketing and taketomarket strategy, which clearly has not been invested in.
Q401 Ms Morris: Do you think there are other stakeholders that ought to be engaged in this, such as the FSB? We are talking about SMEs, so we have the CBI engaged. Perhaps we could look at some of the smaller SME representatives.
Kevin Green: One of the things we spend a lot of time doing is working with trade associations in terms of talking to them about good recruitment. One of the things we do find is that Government has to use the intermediaries that are already there to get messages out there. Business bodies, trade associations and professional bodies are a good route to market.
Again, however, SMEs do not often have a huge amount of time on their hands. You have to make it easy; even if you make them aware, you then have to make the process of getting access to the funding and finding a young person easy for them to respond to. Conceptually, it is good; it just needs quite a lot of work at the front end.
Q402 Ms Morris: In terms of training, how would you tweak it to make it effective?
Kevin Green: You have to make it as flexible as possible. One of the great problems with Government is that it becomes incredibly bureaucratic. I have gone through the process of becoming aware of it. I have to find a young person. I get this incentive. I then want to organise some training. How do I go about that in a really easy way?
Again, Jobcentre Plus should be providing the access route to local training companies and saying, "Here is a list of five people who do basic apprenticeship training and skills training in your local area." They need to build up that knowledge and provide that introduction.
Q403 Stephen Lloyd: Damian and Alan, this is about the Universal Jobmatch. One of the challenges we seem to be finding is that, because a key part of the mandatory requirement for job applicants is to send out applications to show they are actually doing the work, the CBI-and others, to be honest-have pinpointed possible concerns that the disadvantage of Universal Jobmatch is that applicants are told, "You need to send out 20 applications a week."
They are going to Universal Jobmatch and pinging out 20, which often, sadly, are unsuitable. The consequence is that employers are getting flooded with completely unsuitable applicants, which is generally getting everyone bad-tempered about the whole thing. Do you accept that there are disadvantages to Universal Jobmatch having that dual function of both telling people where there are availabilities for jobs, but also then allowing people to flood the market? Do you recognise that as a challenge?
Damian Kenny: I do; it is not especially surprising, given the usage of the system we have seen. Part of it comes down to the quality of the data that is being used there. On the one hand, you have the policy intent from the DWP to encourage people to use the system: they want people to apply for jobs. If people are putting into their profiles a very broad range of skills they would like to match jobs against, it is going to throw up many more jobs than if they had put in a very specific requirement.
Given the pressure they are under from the Jobcentre advisers, who are encouraging them to use the system to apply for jobs, as a jobseeker they feel they have to do as much as they can with the system. Like I say, if they put a wide range of skills and experience in there, they may well have many applications they feel they are suited to.
Q404 Stephen Lloyd: In a sense, it is a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? A consequence of the delivery mechanism of Universal Jobmatch is not that it is being abused, but that people are going to push a few buttons and just get out squillions of CVs so that they can go back to their JCP adviser and say they have done it. What would you do, if you were advising Jobcentre Plus, to try to deal in some way with that problem?
I will tell you why it is a problem. This is back to what Kevin was talking about. I was in business for many years before entering politics-in both the SME and corporate sectors. Unfortunately, it is a real frustration; we already have a problem of perception with JCP from the SME sector. If they are then getting 35 applications, of which 32 are unsuitable, you can fill in the dots. I appreciate that is a problem and I understand it is a challenge.
If I said to you, "I am the Secretary of State; advise Jobcentre Plus about some criteria that would reduce the number of these spam CVs," what would you advise?
Damian Kenny: It comes down to the advisers giving advice and training to the jobseekers on how exactly they get the best from Universal Jobmatch. Like I said before, if they are putting in a very wide range of skills, it is going to open up the opportunities for potential applications much wider than before. It is about homing in on the real skills and experience that an applicant may have.
Equally, there is an education piece for the employers. If the employers are putting specifications on there that have a very wide brief or there is a wide range of skills they are looking for, equally, they are going to get lots more applications than if they had very specific requirements.
Q405 Stephen Lloyd: Is it Monster’s job to ensure the employers are also better briefed, so they put on more suitable posts or language or what have you? Is that part of Jobcentre Plus’s role?
Damian Kenny: It is to the extent that we can provide online FAQs on the system about how best to use it and how to get the most from it, but, at the end of the day, we need to work with DWP on their processes of engaging with the employers and how DWP get employers to use the system to get the best out of it. We can support that process, but it is not Monster’s role to be that interface.
Q406 Stephen Lloyd: Your job is to provide the platform.
Damian Kenny: We provide the tool to support the policy aims.
Kevin Green: There is something about quality rather than quantity here. It is about the actual measurement itself. If you are going to be measured on sending out 20 applications, you will send out 20 applications. There might be something in saying that people must send out five or six high-quality applications, and seeing what the conversion rate is from application to being called in for an interview.
We could be a bit cleverer around the metrics. If you send five off and on one of those, i.e. 20%, you get called for an interview, you most probably have a metric that means that employers are getting a better service-because they are actually calling people for interview-and, secondly, people are most probably spending more time on making sure they are putting in four or five good applications, rather than putting in 20. There is something here about looking at the metrics as a way of honing that down.
Q407 Stephen Lloyd: That is a really good idea. It is something we will put to JCP.
Alan Townsend: The difference, then, that we see in terms of a commercial job board-this is why employers tend to use the commercial job boards-is that on the commercial job boards, the job seekers are getting a lot more interaction and advice in terms of how to apply for a job in the right way; the advice is much more available to them. At the same time, part of the commercial world is that you work more with the employers to make sure the job adverts that are being placed are going to produce the right people for them. Again, this is where the difference probably is, from an employer’s perspective. They know, when they are interacting with a commercial job board, they are getting all of those assets as well. They are not going to get a number of applications that do not meet the job, which they are experiencing when they use the Jobcentre Plus connection.
Q408 Stephen Lloyd: I agree. I think that is a good point. Where I am picking up on Kevin’s suggestion is you have to find some way of systematising these things. The reason that large numbers of people are very successfully churning out tens of thousands of CVs, some of which are entirely unsuitable, is the system. The metric says you have to send out 20 a week. It cannot be beyond the wit of man to find out a way, linked with that, to have the requirement to get x number of interviews, because people will adjust accordingly.
I have one more question for Monster. Are there not some types of jobs-particularly, perhaps, the lower-skilled ones-for which a more traditional method of job search would be more appropriate rather than using Universal Jobmatch?
Damian Kenny: I suppose you are talking about matching and whether or not the lower skilled jobseekers out there necessarily have profiles and detailed CVs. The site and service does provide the ability to search as well. You can go in there and input the criteria you would like to search against and you do not necessarily have to have a fully built profile against that now.
Clearly, we would advise that having one would yield better results: the better quality data you put in, the better the output. However, it serves two functions to allow you to do those random searches, as opposed to having a very specific profile.
Q409 Stephen Lloyd: Do you have outcome measurements? I am sure you do, because the level of data you will be collecting must be really interesting. Do you know what percentage of people using Universal Jobmatch have actually found jobs? Is that something it is possible to store or is it too random?
Damian Kenny: I have no doubt that it is possible to store, but it is not something that Monster currently has access to. If you think about the process, we are all about getting people into the service, using the functions of the service and then the point of applying is effectively the boundary of Monster’s involvement.
If you want to look at the endtoend view of whether they are getting into work, how long they are staying in work and what the quality of that work is, you are looking at a triangle. Universal Jobmatch is one part of that triangle; the services that will be brought in by universal credit, i.e. the taper, would be another part of that triangle; and you then have HMRC services-when people start to contribute to PAYE. That should give you that full picture. At the moment, however, we are only one part of that.
Q410 Stephen Lloyd: I can see how we could do something even sooner. Is there any metric within the DWP or Jobcentre Plus to capture, "I got this job and I got the interview via Universal Jobmatch"? Is there any cross-tabbing there?
Damian Kenny: The only way to do that at the moment would be to conduct surveys. DWP have done some initial insight surveys into the service, how it is used and what people’s experiences are. They are also looking to roll out more representative surveys on its actual use. Until they have done that, it is difficult to get a true picture.
Stephen Lloyd: Certainly, I would want to ask the DWP to provide me some data to see how many people have actually got a job through Universal Jobmatch.
Damian Kenny: I may well have put words into their mouths. They may well have that data.
Stephen Lloyd: I will ask them.
Q411 Teresa Pearce: The whole idea here is taking something from the private sector that works well and putting it into the DWP: for instance something like reed.co.uk, where there is a very good system where they match people to vacancies.
However, it works because they only get paid if they match the right person to the right vacancy. In this situation-I mean no offense-you are paid for providing the platform; people who work at the DWP get paid for coming in; the claimant is taking a financial risk and has to do these certain metrics to get their money; and the employer is nowhere in this. Is that not where this falls down? In the private sector it works, because the payment follows the result, whereas this is just a process.
Alan Townsend: Just to be clear, the payment does follow the result, necessarily.
Q412 Teresa Pearce: Do you mean in the private sector?
Alan Townsend: Yes. It is part of the process, but it does not work in terms of an online job board. There is a payment up front for advertising a job. It is more like an online media service.
Q413 Teresa Pearce: An agency such as Reed, however, will get paid for placing a person in a job; they will get a commission or they will provide somebody on an agency basis. If you are only going to get paid for doing the job properly, you will do the job properly; in this, however, people get paid when nothing happens.
Kevin Green: There are a couple of things here. Firstly, our members normally only get paid if someone gets a job. If you are thinking about the private recruitment sector, that is how it works. Their job is to service the client and find the right candidate. If you look at the job board market, in reality, it is our members that are the biggest users of those. 75% of all of the jobs on commercial job boards are placed by agencies to attract candidates.
You cannot match through some kind of software and get exactly the right person for the right job. In reality, it does not happen in the private sector. It is the intervention of calling someone in, going through the interview, preparing them for the job, doing the re-introduction, talking to both sides and making it work. If you then look at the claimants that you are going to be dealing with in this environment, often people who have been out of work for a long period, it is probably a very ambitious idea that you can just put in a technical solution and it is going to throw up an opportunity for someone who is lacking selfconfidence and may not have the skill and it is going to work.
You have to focus on the advice the Jobcentre Plus give to the people and the conversation that they have. If you want to make this work, Jobcentre Plus have to give more time to the individuals to get them ready for the job-not just have them send off CVs. Perhaps they do not have the skills or the self-confidence. If they are called for an interview and it does not go well, who is going to support the individual through that process? Our members spend huge amounts of time matching people to jobs so that it works. You cannot use 10minute interviews and have claimants send off 20 CVs and expect to get great results. It simply will not work.
The technology is a platform. That is the point: it is there, but there are other things that make it work
Teresa Pearce: On its own, it does not work.
Kevin Green: On its own it will not be the solution to getting thousands of unemployed claimants into jobs.
Teresa Pearce: It might get them off benefit, though, which is a different criterion.
Lena Tochtermann: That is what I was going to say. It goes back to the way we measure Jobcentre Plus, which is on benefit offflows, rather than sustainable job outcomes: for example, how we measure the Work Programme. There is very little incentive to do this proper assessment, looking at the skills of the individual candidate. There is very little time to do that. There is something going wrong there.
Q414 Teresa Pearce: I would add that, in my constituency, a very large supermarket has opened a dotcom centre. Working with professionals who have longterm unemployed, they advertised 80 jobs and got 80 people who had been unemployed for longer than two years into sustainable work. This was because professional people sat with them, trained them and prepared them. The supermarket looked at different things: they did not want references. They opened their minds, but it was through professional people doing their job properly that it happened.
Lena Tochtermann: This goes back to the individual links as well and how good the links of a Jobcentre Plus are at a local level. In Southampton, Jobcentre Plus did that with IKEA when they came in. They got a lot of people from the local labour market into work. Again, it was down to individuals and the customer service.
Q415 Sheila Gilmore: I wanted to come back to the Universal Jobmatch. It may be no fault of yours, but it has been sold publicly as somehow being a solution. What exactly was your remit? Was it simply to create a kind of online version of the cards or did it go beyond that?
Damian Kenny: Yes, is the answer. If we go back to the original procurement of Universal Jobmatch, which began over three years ago, the conversations between Monster and the Department were about trying to leverage some of the capabilities that Monster had in its underlying technology, because it has been successful around the world for a number of years. That was where Monster was coming from.
It goes back to part of Kevin’s point that, when it comes to deploying a DWP version of the Monster solution, that is only one part of a much more complex solution that Jobcentre Plus operates. We are one important-I would argue-part of that process, but Universal Jobmatch on its own is not a silver bullet that will suddenly find jobs for all our jobless in the UK. It should help people to get to a job quicker and in a much more streamlined way, working with employers we provide self service, which was one of the reasons the DWP wanted to introduce it: to give control to employers.
This was the remit for Monster: to introduce a tool that would help streamline the process and make it more effective.
Q416 Sheila Gilmore: I take it from that you have not been involved in the conditionality side of Universal Jobmatch, because what claimants are told is that they must use it and demonstrate they have made a certain number of applications-on pain of not fulfilling their commitment. You were not involved in that use of this at all, then.
Damian Kenny: The only thing the tool currently provides is that you are allowed to record your activity, whether it be actually on Universal Jobmatch itself or any other jobsearch work you are undertaking. There is free text that you can enter into the system.
There have been conversations with universal credit colleagues, for example, about how there could be integration between UJ and UC and how they may be able to include, within their data, support conditionality and in-work conditionality, but that has not come to fruition as yet.
Q417 Sheila Gilmore: However, can you see problems arising in terms of the reputation of this system? From the claimant’s point of view, it is becoming something they simply have to do, yet it is not necessarily all that relevant to whether it is a good or a bad match. If they do not demonstrate they have done this, they will be penalised. You have really have to do that. Is that really how you would like to see your system viewed?
Damian Kenny: No, not at all. I suppose there is always going to be a mixture of perceptions out there about the service and how it is used and why it has been introduced. From reading a lot of the online social media and comments about UJ, I know there is a lot of focus on the policy intent behind it and whether it is really a tool to beat jobseekers with. The intent behind the service is that DWP are looking to try to get people into sustainable work; that is the real underlying basis for the system, which people might not be aware of. Yes, they need to be able to provide data that supports their process, but that is not why the system was introduced in the first place.
Q418 Sheila Gilmore: One of the criticisms people have made is that even what gets thrown up if you go into it is not always that accurate. For instance, people have gone in for retail vacancies and it has come up with souschef. There are other examples of that. Is this something you are trying to improve, so that it is accurate?
Damian Kenny: Yes. We have also heard anecdotal evidence of people who have put in a particular search and have not received the results they were looking for. It helps to take a step back and understand what the underlying system is there to do and how it works. The Monster technology that underpins Universal Jobmatch has been built up over time and is used around the world. It uses a semantic search engine. We know from our experience over time that the tool, in its very essence, works-and it works well. It looks at the data you put in front of it and puts it into context. For example, if you were searching for "account manager" it would know the difference between an account manager and someone who was in the accounting profession, which might be different to a standard wordcount that some job boards are based on.
There is that element to it and you also consider, as I said to Stephen before, the breadth of data that people are putting in there, either from a jobseeker’s perspective or from an employer’s perspective. If you put a very tightly defined specification in there as an employer, the expectation is you will get quite a small pool of candidates to choose from. Equally, if you are a candidate who puts in a very tightly defined set of skills and experience, the matches you get should be a lot closer to that. However, if you go in there and put in a vast range of experience and skills, it suddenly exponentially increases the pool of things that will be thrown up.
A good example is a plumber. You may put in your search against "plumber". The system uses-Alan will correct me on this-a system called spidering, so it knows that a plumber has a similar skill set to someone who may be a gasfitter. It then opens up all of those skills, and that may also then move into another set of skills for a pipe-fitter in a power station. What the system is trying to do is give the jobseeker more opportunities to define jobs. It is trying not to stifle that choice.
In answer to your final question, we are working closely with DWP, because we know it is not a perfect system. For example, we are looking at the taxonomy of the system at the moment, the underlying data and the rules that govern it, to make sure it is appropriate for the UK market. It is currently based on SOC2000. At the time of go-live, DWP were not in a position to move to SOC2010. We know there are some gaps there and we are working closely with them on how they can bridge those gaps.
Q419 Sheila Gilmore: Is there an issue with employers putting things on there? What guidance do they get in terms of how they should advertise their vacancy?
Damian Kenny: That is part of the issue. It is that engagement with employers across the UK. We know that there are national employer teams that work very closely with certain groups of employers, but when it comes to the smaller SME-type businesses, they will not necessarily be getting quite that level of support. Again, I am speaking on behalf of DWP here, so I would need them to comment, but there is certainly an education piece for the employer to help them get the best of the system, because it is meant to be for them to use as an online self service rather than always having to pick up the phone and ask for specific support.
Q420 Sheila Gilmore: Is any use made of the total numbers of jobs that are on there? Have you ever been asked to keep any records of that? I have spotted that there clearly are repetitions, with the same job appearing on a different page of the same list. It is not actually two jobs or three jobs; it would appear to be exactly the identical job. Is that something you have been asked to do-to use this as a tool for deciding how many vacancies there are, for example-or is it just simply for people to put on what they need?
Damian Kenny: It is the latter. In any given month, there are roughly a million active jobs. That differs for the ONS statistics, which suggest that there are around half a million jobs at any one point in time. There is clearly some repetition there. On Kevin’s point, over 50% of the users of the system are recruitment agencies. We know they will be scraping jobs, so we know there is some duplication. Next month, there is due to be a purge of various aspects of the data to try to clean up duplication.
Q421 Sheila Gilmore: Have the DWP asked you to carry out on any kinds of checks on the validity of the types of jobs? I keep raising this point, but it is important. I spent some time last night looking under retail for my area. I went through five pages, and 95 of the entries were for catalogue distributors. Six were for other sorts of selfemployed opportunities-it was unclear what they were-and 21 were what I would call jobs: proper employee jobs, a mix of parttime, fulltime, temporary and so on. It looks like an awful lot, but should they not be in a separate category? Why are they appearing there?
Damian Kenny: You have hit the nail on the head there. Part of the issue is employers’ categorisations of the jobs they are putting on there. This is where they need support from Jobcentre Plus advisers on how best to do that. Again, this is where there may be gaps we need to plug between the different operational codes that are in the system now to reflect the kinds of jobs that are on there.
Q422 Glenda Jackson: Is there a requirement upon employers to post those jobs? We are being led to believe that there will be a requirement on the jobseeker to use that system. Before we started, our Chair mentioned the idea of thousands of people having to pursue a job and the employer at the end being inundated with applications. They would presumably say, "I have had enough of this. I will go back to my old system or another system," or "I am going to leave this entirely." Is there a danger of that happening?
Kevin Green: There is danger for both parties. If employers are putting their jobs on and they are getting inundated with people making spurious or not serious applications, they will consider it. Employers do not have the time. If they get thousands of applications for a job, it is very labour intensive to filter those and decide whom to hire. Clearly, if it does not work for employers, they just will not use it in the long term.
For the individuals who are putting in 20 applications per week, if there is conditionality that you have to apply for 20 jobs, and you are not getting called for any interview, you are then going to spend less time putting consideration into what you do. You are going to think, "This is one of the things I need to do to get my benefits. I have to send 20 applications and I will not spend any time on it." You are then in a vicious cycle of employers not using it, because they are getting thousands of notjobready candidates, and individuals not spending any time really matching it, because they have to do it as it is conditional in terms of their benefit. You are in downward spiral.
That is not criticism of the platform; the platform is there and can be a useful tool. This is about using criteria. There is a chance this will create a vortex and then potentially not deliver anyone with any benefit.
Q423 Chair: Does that mean extra work for your members, then? Employers will not go directly to Jobcentre Plus, because they will be deluged with applications. This will worsen as the claimant commitment rolls out and as more and more mandation comes in. They are going to come to your members to say, "Get me somebody for this job." Your members are going to do all the work of screening, which, previously, an employer would have done themselves.
Kevin Green: This is why we did the partnership agreements, because we want Jobcentre Plus to work. There are differences in approaches, but by combining the two you actually give the individuals the best chance of getting into a job and you help employers find the people they need. We are not in competition. The value is in where you leverage off both sides to make it work.
Using jobboard technology-Monster are very good at it-is a great idea. However, it is often about the execution and how you go about it. Saying to people, "You have to make 20 applications using this system, regardless of whether you get called for an interview," is clearly the wrong way of using the system.
Q424 Chair: You are saying that it is counter-productive for the Government to say, "We are going to encourage more people to apply for more jobs as part of the claimant commitment." It will lead to fewer people getting jobs.
Kevin Green: It is about quality applications, where people have the chance to get a real job where they have the right skills. It is in their interests and the employers’ interests to make sure that happens.
Chair: The requirements the DWP and Jobcentre Plus are placing on claimants have to change.
Kevin Green: It has to be a more sophisticated measure, as we talked about with Stephen earlier on. If you encourage people to make 20 random applications, employers are going to get frustrated with the system, because they will be inundated with nonspecific applications for the jobs and they will not use Jobcentre Plus.
The objective is to get more employers to use it and get a higher quality service, but you are doing something that will take us in exactly the wrong direction.
Q425 Nigel Mills: I am just wondering whether this is an issue with this system or an issue generally with Jobcentre Plus. I am sure it is not a new complaint from employers that they have been sent dozens of CVs from unsuitable people, some of whom might really only want to get a letter signed to say they attended. Is it a problem with this system or is it a problem with how the DWP pushes people to do that?
Kevin Green: It is a problem with how DWP measure things and the conditionality. There should be highquality applications. What is the conversion rate of application to interview? What is the conversion rate of interview to success? Those are the criteria you would normally use if you were running a recruitment business. Those are the criteria you would use: how many people do I put forward? How many get called for interview? How many get the job? How many are in the job after six months?
Q426 Nigel Mills: Would you agree that there might be some utility if this system could be reversed and give some feedback to the individual or Jobcentre? It might say, "He has applied for 100 jobs, but he is actually patently unsuited to all 100, because the skills do not match." It might say, "You would never have got any job within a 50mile radius with that CV as it is so poor." Is that something you think should be there and is that something the system could do?
Damian Kenny: There is potential for the system to do that. Currently, for example, as an employer, when you go to put on a specification for a job, you are able to pull up an anonymised list of the top candidates. It will rank the candidates in terms of your specification and how close the match is with the skills and the experience, so they have that view of those candidates and, if they choose, they can invite those candidates to attend for interview.
That does not quite close the loop, because it does not stop anyone who sees an available advert out there applying to that advert, but it does give some control to the employer to invite the candidates they are really interested in speaking to and control that themselves-rather than be swamped, like you said, with inappropriate applications from a much wider source.
Kevin Green: The key thing is that the individuals need advice and guidance. This is the key issue. The system could say, "You have made 20 applications; you seem to be making this mistake." Presumably, you could deliver some feedback to the individuals in that way. In terms of Jobcentre advisers, that is clearly one of the things they should be doing. "You are applying for 20 jobs a week. How many times are you getting called for interviews? What have you put in about your skills? Have you really got those skills? Are we going too wide?" Someone has to provide that advice and guidance-otherwise they will keep making the same mistake over and over again.
Q427 Ms Morris: I have a brief question about the technology itself. You say that it is tried and tested as a system. To what extent have you actually tested this particular application of it? There is anecdotal evidence that people have been challenged literally just logging on. There is one individual who claimed to have tried 25 times and did not quite make it. There is an issue about robustness and whether you have assessed this implementation, but there is also an issue about ease of use. Clearly, while this can be supported by training, an awful lot of people are not as computer literate as, perhaps, people who have used your other platforms.
To what extent have you done any testing or questioning to see whether you have made this as idiotproof, if I can put it like that, as is possible, given the constraints you have from DWP, who are saying, "We want you to apply for at least three different types of job and please make the category descriptions broad, so you now have got four digits"?
Damian Kenny: Whilst the underlying technology is Monster’s, the actual process to bring in the service and implement it was very much done hand in hand with DWP. That testing of what is appropriate, what users will and will not be able to do, what kind of process flow and user journey there is was very much with the Department. It was not a case of Monster simply imposing a blackbox solution on the Department. Yes, we provide the service, but it is done very closely with the involvement of DWP.
Q428 Ms Morris: Did they or you or anybody actually ask an end user, since this has been implemented, as to whether they find it easy to use?
Damian Kenny: There have been some insight surveys into the user experience. There was work done before implementation with users on the design. The insight survey they have done is not quite statistically relevant; it gives a snapshot view of what the experience is. To your point about the login, we know that it is a complex process. We worked hard with DWP to look at the most appropriate process that was going to tick all the security boxes and we have to use the Government Gateway process currently. We know that is complex; there were issues with people forgetting their 12character username and there have been thousands of password resets that have been done as a result. Until we can get to more streamlined access to the service, we are going to have to rely on support from the advisers in the Jobcentres.
Finally, to your point about whether people are equipped to use the tool if they are not necessarily used to using online and digital, again, it comes back to face-to-face support, supported by other agencies and online support that DWP can give. In the vast majority of Jobcentres, they have IADs, internet access devices, which advisers can either point users towards or they can sit down and walk them through particular processes. However, it really does come down to that face-to-face interaction between the Department and the users.
Q429 Ms Morris: In summary, what you are telling me is that more could be done on the technology side, but until you can find a way of dealing with the security issues, it is hard. It seems to me, however, this is something that is crucial, because in terms of best use of time and money, to simplify the system-rather than take up extra training time with individuals just on how to log on, never mind how to find a job-would be a good, sensible and probably cost-effective first step. Would you agree with that?
Damian Kenny: I would agree, yes.
Q430 Graham Evans: Local enterprise partnerships are disappointed that it does not appear at the moment that the labour market data-such as which sectors are growing and which skills areas they should be looking at in a particular region-can be accessed by looking at Universal Jobmatch. Was it part of your brief at DWP to provide a system that could be used in this way?
Damian Kenny: The brief was primarily about the jobmatching functionality. Clearly, the focus at DWP is on getting those people into work and that engagement with employers. Yes, we are aware that, previously, people could access Jobcentre Plus data through Nomis and similar platforms, and we are aware that there are limitations in what they can get currently from Universal Jobmatch. However, we built the system to a specification that was agreed with DWP. To a certain extent, the data is all there; DWP is the data owner. It is potentially available for external third parties.
In fact, we are working with DWP and CESI on a labour market intelligence platform, which uses anonymised data from Universal Jobmatch and also uses anonymised Monster core data to give that crossmatching to give back that more granular view of the market: the geography, the breakdown and the demand in the marketplace. However, we do accept it does not give as much data as it used to previously.
Q431 Graham Evans: You are saying that it is fairly easy for Jobcentre Plus to extract and publish that information within every town. Is that what you are saying?
Damian Kenny: No, what I am saying is that we are in the process, with DWP, of producing that data for them. What you have in Universal Jobmatch at the moment is a set of predefined reports. At the time of system implementation, they were the priority reports that were required. We did discuss having some kind of data warehouse, but, at the time, that was not taken forward.
Q432 Graham Evans: Within there, you have the nuts and bolts of being able to produce information for growth industries in a given area and, therefore, the skills those growth areas would need.
Damian Kenny: Yes, the data exists; it is a question of extracting it.
Q433 Graham Evans: Would there be additional costs for you to be able to put those nuts and bolts into a system that could provide that on a casebycase basis?
Damian Kenny: Yes, there would. We provide a service that is currently based on a particular specification.
Q434 Graham Evans: Are you in discussion with DWP on that basis and the additional funding to be able to provide that information?
Damian Kenny: We are not into the funding discussions yet, but we are working with them on what data would actually be appropriate to release and which data would be most useful for the market.
Q435 Stephen Lloyd: Just to be clear, you are doing a scoping discussion now with the DWP on how that data could be used?
Damian Kenny: Yes, we are doing that with DWP and CESI.
Q436 Graham Evans: This is where the additional costs could be recouped, presumably.
Damian Kenny: Yes.
Q437 Graham Evans: All of the nuts and bolts are in there. The data is in there. It is the cost of you being able to get that out and put in report form, which could be used by an individual Jobcentre Plus or a LEP.
Damian Kenny: Yes.
Q438 Graham Evans: The LEPs are so important for getting the job markets right on a region-by-region basis.
Damian Kenny: Yes.
Q439 Graham Evans: As I was saying, the CBI and other witnesses believe that Jobcentre Plus should change its key performance measures, KPIs, which are currently focused on getting people off benefits. Jobcentre Plus staff could be incentivised to get people into sustained job outcomes. How should Jobcentre Plus performance be measured in order to encourage more successful outcomes?
Damian Kenny: I am not sure if that is a question for me.
Kevin Green: This is about people getting a job and staying in employment, which means staying off benefits for a period of time. If you are measuring people purely in terms of them coming off benefits, people come off benefits, the experience does not work out and they are back on benefits quite quickly. Just measuring the first thing as a key metric does not work. It is about creating, rewarding and incentivising jobcentres that are good at getting people into jobs and people then remaining in employment for a period of time.
Q440 Graham Evans: In your experience, how does that vary from Jobcentre Plus to Jobcentre Plus?
Kevin Green: The performance varies hugely. I do not have any data to support that, but in terms of anecdotal feedback from our members about them working with Jobcentre Plus, they will say that some are fantastic and have great staff who are doing a wonderful job, while others do not seem to be very effective at all in terms of giving advice, getting people into jobs and even being open to the relationship.
There is a very patchy delivery mechanism. There are some areas of high quality, where it seems work very well, and there are other areas where it is not working very well. Some of that is down to leadership, management and the skills of people involved.
Q441 Graham Evans: Based on your experience, anecdotal or otherwise, do you believe there could be changes the DWP could make to Jobcentre Plus’s key performance measures?
Kevin Green: Yes, absolutely. It should be more about how many people are still in work, after you have got them into work, after six weeks, after 13 weeks. That would be a much better measure. It then stops the churn of getting people into anything because it looks like a good statistic.
If they come off a benefit and six weeks later they are back on benefits because they do not have a real job, it does not work and it does not help the individual or the employer. It means that jobcentres are not delivering sustainable performance, which is what you want.
Lena Tochtermann: We should probably scrap offflow targets and think about a different measure about sustainable job outcomes. Finding that in the interim is probably more challenging. The move to universal credit will help here, because we will get the real-time data through RTI; we will get a better sense of where people are progressing. In the medium term, we might want to think about how long people have stayed in jobs, whether they are coming back to benefits and, possibly, feedback from employers.
A lot of this comes back to better understanding what employers are looking for and how that matches up with the candidates who are coming through the door. It is about getting that right.
Q442 Chair: One of the ways of tracking the sustained outcomes is to phone up employers, but DWP said that it annoyed employers when they used to do that. Kevin, you said that would be a better measure. How would employers feel about that? People have to be tracked in some way. If they are off benefit, there is no other way of tracking them other than contacting the employer.
Lena Tochtermann: The universal credit will help avoid too much extra burden on employers when it comes in, because you have that real-time data and you see where people’s earnings are moving. In the interim, calling up the employer and saying, "Somebody I placed into work with you has come in; how are they doing?" is not a negative thing. It will help create some of that feedback on what helps people succeed in work, which DWP is looking to find out more about as part of their inwork progression.
Q443 Chair: On the variation in the performance of different Jobcentres depending on where they are, is it more than the relationships and how well they are doing the job? Is it more reflective of the state of the local labour market? In my area, Aberdeen, it is quite easy to get people into sustainable jobs, because they are there.
Kevin Green: Clearly, the performance of a Jobcentre is going to be hugely affected by the labour market it is supporting. We have absolutely no doubt about that. However, the feedback we get from our members is just the level of interest, the level of outreach activity-the way that Jobcentres are going out to meet local employers and where they are bringing employers in.
Our members will say, "We have worked with this Jobcentre and they are doing a fantastic job. It encourages us to come in; we work with it well; it seems to have great outcomes. This one over here does not seem to do any of that activity."
Q444 Graham Evans: What is the difference in the reason why there is one that is embracing this and encouraging people to come in to the Jobcentre Plus and the other one is not?
Kevin Green: Some of it is about the leadership of whoever manages the office.
Q445 Graham Evans: It is about the management and leadership in Jobcentres. Have you come across anything to do with best practice? You described one example where the Jobcentre is inviting; do DWP learn from those leaders?
Kevin Green: They are working with us. My team are doing regional workshops, where we bring some of our members together with Jobcentres. Some it is about sharing ideas and talking about the local labour market, but it is also about sharing best practice. It is really good to see jobcentres that are working actively with us and delivering outcomes saying to their colleagues, "There is something you could potentially benefit from here."
It is happening and we are keen to do more of it; DWP are also keen to promote the concept.
Q446 Graham Evans: At business breakfasts, I have noticed your members are always there sniffing around for the latest job opportunities. Would you encourage Jobcentre Plus managers to do something similar?
Kevin Green: You have to think about how you build your local relationships with employers. That is the key product of Jobcentre Plus, in reality. It is about building a relationship with employers and finding out where the jobs are, so that you can bring them to your candidates, in reality. The more effective jobcentres are very good at building relationships with national employers that have sites in a geographical area and SMEs in the area.
It is a key skill. Sometimes it is ignored; this is the point. It is not seen as a core part of the job, because the fundamental sets of measures are about dealing with people who are coming through the door.
Q447 Debbie Abrahams: I want to build on the points Graham has made about conditionality and the focus on offflow. First of all, in relation to training, some jobseekers have said-these are personal experiences as well as documented experiences-the longer term training they want to do is being prevented in terms of the conditionality they have as a claimant. What are your views on that and how it could be overcome?
Lena Tochtermann: This is not something we have had a great deal of feedback on. If you are talking about some of the proposals we have seen through party conferences recently, one of the issues we see on our side is that people want to move into training, but when they train for more than 16 hours-I believe that is the number-they are seeing their benefit reduced.
We are seeing a slight disincentive to stay in training, whereas for some people training might be the right option to help them move into a sustainable job outcome. We would certainly support this being changed.
Kevin Green: We have not come across it as a major issue, but clearly if people are putting their hand up and saying, "I am not getting a job, because I do not have the skills; I want to do some skills training," we need to find a way of supporting them as best we can. That is absolutely right.
Q448 Debbie Abrahams: I do not know if you are aware of the Association of Colleges suggesting that the key performance measures could be more closely aligned to BIS’s targets around skills training and so on. I do not know whether you had a comment around that.
Kevin Green: One of the things that we do get feedback on from our members and employers is that, quite often, they will find that local colleges are providing training that does not match the local jobs that are available. Clearly, there is something here about trying to get good-quality labour market information at a local level, where people are looking not only at where the jobs are now, but where they are coming-and they are trying to make the training match those.
I went to see a Work Programme provider who is a member of ours. They are the best performing Work Programme provider and they are doing fantastic stuff. They have got sheds on business parks and, basically, they have partitioning that they can move around. I went to the one in Birmingham and they were training people to be croupiers. It was bizarre. They had tables set out and they said, "There is huge demand for people to do this job and you can actually train them to do it."
The ability to get a local provider to flex their training so that they are actually training people to have a great opportunity to go into jobs at the end of a three or fourweek period is fantastic. You need that agility. The problem with colleges is they think, "We have always done hairdressing, so we will carry on doing hairdressing," even if there are no hairdressing jobs in the local community. There is something about making sure everybody has good labourmarket information, so that you are trying to match the jobs and the training together and you are encouraging people to take those opportunities.
Q449 Graham Evans: What was the provider you mentioned?
Kevin Green: Staffline is the recruitment company and EOS is the Work Programme provider. It is run by Staffline, who are one of our members, and it is the best performing Work Programme provider. It works on this principle of having flexible space in which it can create training. They look at the local labour market; they go and talk to employers and find out what they are looking for; they then make the training as applicable as they can for that labour market.
Q450 Graham Evans: It is quite a small building, so big classes, small
Kevin Green: Yes, absolutely.
Q451 Debbie Abrahams: Just to be absolutely clear, among your members you have not come across a situation where DWP rules are preventing this more nuanced training that looks at labour force needs and so on? Have you come across that from your members’ experiences?
Kevin Green: No. The benefits trap at 16 hours has been there, but universal credit should help us resolve that. We have had people saying, "I do not want a job over 16 hours, because my benefits are going to be affected," even though it is a temporary job. You do not want that. It has existed in the jobs market-and I am sure it is the same with training.
Lena Tochtermann: Something we hear about the flexibility of training a lot is that jobseekers are being advised to do longer courses, because often certain modules they might need are not available. There needs to be a bit more flexibility from the education colleges in what is on offer.
Q452 Debbie Abrahams: Moving on to think about the issues or opportunities of a more flexible labour market, we have been moving towards a more flexible labour market for the last 15-plus years, have we not? In terms of the opportunities that have enabled many businesses and so on in the short term over the period of the recession to survive, what has that meant, conversely, to jobseekers?
Kevin Green: It means there is a range of ways in which people can now work. If you look at the flexible labour market, employers are obviously under cost pressures, so they are trying to keep their skills and talent as high as they possibly can, but they are under pressure from their competitors to think about their cost price. That does mean employers offer work in a range of different ways. This means that people have what you can look at as opportunities: opportunities to work full-time, part-time, through a contract, via fixedtime working. It means that there are opportunities and people need to think about whether it suits their lifestyle and what they want.
One of the things we would say is that, if we had not had a flexible labour market, we would have had a lot more people unemployed. The CBI’s forecast is 500,000; most probably, that is a little bit cautious. It may well be up to 1 million people. Having a flexible labour market and trying to get people to work in a range of different ways is beneficial to employers, but it is also beneficial to individuals in the labour market.
Q453 Debbie Abrahams: Could you expand on that? It is beneficial to individuals. There is a spectrum, is there not? Hopefully, we will have a balance of benefits to the employer and benefits to employees.
Kevin Green: The key thing, as I mentioned earlier, is this whole concept of a stepping stone. We want people to demonstrate they want to work, that they will work, that they turn up on time and that they have the work ethic. As an employer, you will take people on through an agency or for casual work. 90% of employers say they take people who have come to work in a flexible way into permanent jobs. This is good news; it is a stepping stone.
What is the alternative? We may well have ended up with another million more people sitting at home on benefits, losing confidence, not keeping their skills fresh and not being active. I know there are instances where people say there is exploitative practice, but the vast majority of employers are trying to find people and want to treat them well, because it is actually about providing services to their customers. They do, however, need to do it in a flexible way.
Q454 Debbie Abrahams: I wonder if you would like to comment on the scenario that, as things stand at the moment, with more flexible shortterm contracts, for example, there could be a tendency for some employees in lower skilled jobs to come in and out of the job market on a cyclical basis. Would you agree that is the case?
Kevin Green: There will be, yes. There are people who may do a shortterm assignment for three months and then find there is not another opportunity and end up going back on benefits.
Q455 Debbie Abrahams: How do we ensure, within the offer that DWP has within JCP, that there is the potential for that person to go from a low-skilled and potentially low-quality job-certainly, it will be a low-paid job-and have some career progression and pay progression as well? How do we ensure, within the system, that people are not stuck in minimum-wage, low-quality jobs with no prospects?
Kevin Green: Some of it is clearly about the ongoing advice to the individuals. Some of it is about saying, "If you keep coming back and doing the same shortterm assignments, let us think about your skills and qualifications; let us think about things that will differentiate you in a competitive job."
Q456 Debbie Abrahams: Can I come back to the previous point about the training side? It is a very important side.
Kevin Green: Yes, it is.
Q457 Debbie Abrahams: In terms of the limitations we currently see with how training is provided, would you agree that we need to have a more comprehensive approach to that?
Kevin Green: Yes. It must be a more agile response.
Debbie Abrahams: Absolutely, yes-otherwise we will have that mismatch in terms of the employment inequalities that exist.
Kevin Green: Yes.
Q458 Teresa Pearce: Under universal credit, there will be a requirement for people to up the number of hours they work to 35. This is the thrust of it. Obviously, the person employed is not the decision-maker on that; it is the employer. Have employers been consulted or involved in this policy?
Lena Tochtermann: We have had a number of discussions with the DWP on this. Progression is really important and it is something employers are thinking about more and more. We are looking to do some more work on this over the course of next year. On the whole, the feedback we have had from employers is they are very positive about the flexibility that universal credit gives them, because what they had under the old system was wanting their staff to work longer hours when they had more demand and staff saying, "I cannot, because I will lose my benefit and it will be very hard getting back on."
Employers are positive about that and they have been involved. That said, obviously it is not always an option. We have to think about the position of the jobseekers where that is not possible and make sure they are not disadvantaged.
Q459 Teresa Pearce: Do you think it is achievable in some areas, where there is the flexibility? It is not an unrealistic request to ask people to work longer.
Lena Tochtermann: There are opportunities to work longer. It might not be with every employer and every jobseeker, but my sense is-we are still at a very early stage here-we might well see a reorganisation of the way employers do their staffing, because they have more flexibility and they can work more within existing employees, rather, for example, pulling in agency workers or temporary staff.
It is fairly early days, but it will not work for everybody. The DWP is looking at options around what that means for claimants, as I understand it, in terms of picking up other hours with other employers, for example, and things like that.
Q460 Teresa Pearce: So, for the individual who is on universal credit and also in a parttime job, what would be necessary for them to show they had been requesting more work? Is there some sort of check-off from the employer to say they have requested it and it is not available?
Lena Tochtermann: I am not quite clear, to be honest. I am not sure whether the DWP knows themselves yet; they certainly have not told us what their check is going to be.
Q461 Teresa Pearce: Policy Exchange have suggested that what could happen with entry-level jobs is that claimants would go into an entry-level job, and once they had reached the position where they can go to the next level, that position they free up should see another unemployed claimant come in, so you have this constant revolving system where entrylevel jobs should always go to people through Jobcentre Plus or to people who are unemployed. Kevin is shaking his head. Is that a practical idea?
Kevin Green: No. Employers always have to have choice. They want people who are appropriate for the job. You cannot force employers to take people from a particular group. You can encourage it; you can provide incentives; you can engage with employers. Most employers would be keen to participate, but you cannot make it conditional on employers.
Teresa Pearce: Surely, if an employer takes on some unemployed people from the Jobcentre and they do progress, they will be encouraged to do it again.
Kevin Green: Absolutely, yes.
Q462 Teresa Pearce: What Policy Exchange are saying is that they should ensure the positions are filled; is that just nonsense?
Lena Tochtermann: Given the penetration of Jobcentre Plus in the market at the moment, employers will always look out for other options. That said, we have had some quite positive feedback from employers who have engaged with the Work Programme, for example, and then taken on somebody who was much further away from the labour market. They have often gone back to take on more.
If you get the customer service right and encourage employers to engage, you will get positive feedback coming through-but any move to mandation or restricting choice is not a good idea, given the current level of service.
Q463 Teresa Pearce: The way to achieve that is not to insist; it is to have a good experience for the employer, who would go back to that pool again. It comes back to what we said earlier about getting the right people into the right positions.
Lena Tochtermann: It is the good service. Our employers are using Kevin’s members’ services because they give a good service; if Jobcentre Plus offers employers a good service, they will have more frequent contact.
Teresa Pearce: Did he tell you to say that?
Lena Tochtermann: No.
Kevin Green: I am delighted.
Q464 Nigel Mills: I am taking you towards some bluesky thinking here. There has been a suggestion that Jobcentre Plus should just be a benefit processer or condition enforcer, and we should just move out of work support and leave it to the however many other contractors there are around. Do you have any thoughts as to whether we have the balance in the right place now or whether we should look for a different model?
Kevin Green: What we are asking Jobcentre Plus to do-in some ways we are being a bit critical of it-with diminished resources, in a time of recession, with issues in the labour market, is pretty profound. "Do the benefits stuff; do the enforcement; make sure it works; make sure people get the money they are entitled to; and, by the way, find people jobs and facilitate all that process and work with employers." It is a huge brief.
It is quite difficult for any one organisation to do those two things. There is an opportunity to look at harnessing the private sector, certainly, to provide support on the jobseeking side. Whether you would want to contract it all out, I do not know. Some of our members would be quite keen, but it would be a huge undertaking. Supplementary and complementary activity is probably the right way to go in the short term, rather than saying that we will sweep away the job advice-giving.
Lena Tochtermann: The Australian Centrelink model is definitely an option for the longer term. Our position at the moment is that there are a number of other things we need to concentrate on in a time in which quite a lot is changing. For us, it is about getting the customer service right and focusing on sustainable job outcomes and making sure we assess those people in the right way through a jobseekers’ classification instrument when they come through the door, and making sure Jobcentre Plus works better with the other services that are out there, which will help us do some of that in the intermediate term until we change the whole system again and think about how it is going to look in the future.
Damian Kenny: I would echo Kevin’s view. From our perspective, it is about getting the right balance. There are obviously private sector providers out there-we would include ourselves in that-who have capabilities and skills that can supplement the process. The DWP does not know what it does not know. It is about educating them on what is out there, what the capabilities are and what is available, what we can use and how to best enhance the current service.
Alan Townsend: As Kevin said, it is about harnessing the expertise that is already in the private sector, which is probably not being utilised to its fullest in terms of Jobcentre Plus at the moment, and finding a way of working in better partnership either as job boards or as recruitment consultants as well.
Q465 Nigel Mills: There has been some question of whether this should be a national DWP setup or whether we should move to some more local or regional employment support and perhaps have different jobcentre services in different areas to suit local needs. Where are you on that argument?
Kevin Green: You have to reflect the local labour markets. You do need to adapt services and the way you engage employers. Different parts of the labour market have different types of employers with different sizes of profile looking for different skills. You certainly need to respond to that and, building on the point we have just made, it is about local provision. Engaging with local training organisations such as colleges, dealing with the private sector-whether that is job boards or private agencies at a local level-is the right way to harness the best possible outcomes that we can give to jobseekers in a geographical area. We do need to do that.
Though we are talking about helping people who are unemployed back into work, we do have a big issue in this country with emerging skill shortages. Our data shows it has grown exponentially over the last 18 months. 18 months ago we had 14 areas of skill shortage; we now have 47 and it is growing, even while we have two and a half million people unemployed. There is something about this. It might be the Local Enterprise Partnerships looking at labourmarket data and saying, "How do we create a journey or a pipeline of people to be able to fill the jobs that are available?"
It may take some time, but there is something here about bringing the key players together at a local level in terms of training and employers, because it is actually in their interest to find the skills and talent they want. There is something about creating some kind of activity at a local or regional level to do that.
Lena Tochtermann: We need more flexibility at the local level for managers, but for us accountability should remain central. This reflects some of the feedback on the varying offer that we have received.
Q466 Nigel Mills: If you had one suggestion for what JCP could change, what would that be? Imagine you have a magic wand that you can wave.
Kevin Green: It would be something about the skills of people who work there. You have to invest in the capability of the people who are doing the job. If you want them to produce better outcomes, you need to give them the tools to do the job. This is not one thing, but two things. Secondly, I would say that they should harness other organisations that are doing similar activity. Do not try to do everything yourself; do not believe the state is the best person to do all of this. There are people in the private sector that would want to work and could work with Jobcentre Plus.
Q467 Graham Evans: There is also the charitable sector.
Kevin Green: Yes. There is also the training sector. There are lots of people in local communities who are all trying to do similar things. They need to harness that as best they can.
Lena Tochtermann: Can I have two now as well? They should better assess people when they come in and, also, there should be a mental shift towards starting to see employers more like customers.
Graham Evans: The employer is the customer.
Lena Tochtermann: The employer is the customer, because the employer is the organisation out there that will help Jobcentre Plus achieve its aims. If it does not service the customer, there is no point.
Alan Townsend: From our perspective, there is even more that technology can do. We talked about one very small piece in terms of the Universal Jobmatch. There are many more services that could be provided through Jobcentre Plus to both employers and jobseekers, using virtual careers fairs and a lot more of the expertise that exists in the private sector, to help the Jobcentres become centres of excellence in terms of helping people not just to find a job but to develop a career as well.
Damian Kenny: I have very much the same view as Alan.
Chair: Unless there is anything that you desperately wanted to say this morning and our questions have not given you the opportunity to say it, I will call this evidence session to a close.
We have the Minister on 20 November; that will be our last evidence session. Your answers this morning have certainly helped us shape the questions we will be putting to the Minister. For that, thank you very much.