Signing on – an experience to be avoided if possible…

Signing on’ for Job Seeker’s Allowance
This is probably one if the most degrading experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

Everything is governed by a set of imposed rules which bear no regard for the fact they apply to humans. The staff thanklessly have to impose the rules and in that process have to deal with indignant human responses the degree of which vary enormously depending on the person’s disposition or attitude to finding a job and the level of job. I admire the job centre staff who can only become seriously cynical about the people they’re serving.

There is an amazing amount of paper generated in the process – a lot of which is hand written and double signed (make sure you have two forms of ID on you for every visit to the Job Centre) and then walked to the next department in the processing of the paperwork. The inefficiency of the system has to be seen to be believed. Ironically the JSA application starts off as an online process promising much but that’s where it finishes – your next port of call is the nearest Job Centre Plus (appointment arranged by a phone call from someone – not by selecting a time slot at the time of the application submission) when you are presented with a hard copy of the application form which you sign in many places. (At the time I wished I had a solicitor with me to check the legality and to what I was committing!)

After that process you have another appointment to establish what types of job you can reasonably apply for and sign the agreement to abide by the JSA rules – you must apply for two advertised jobs (crazy, given that 75% of jobs are not advertised) every week otherwise you are likely to lose the privilege of the benefit. (It is alleged that some benefit users apply for jobs but never attend the interviews which understandably upsets many employers. In Reading 10% of JSA applicants are checked to see if they are genuinely following through with their applications – that’s 700 people which is a ridiculously high use of people’s time which could be spent helping the applicants find jobs. You have a 1 in 10 chance of being found out and even then I expect you’re given a number of chances to change your ways…)

You can claim your travel to & from a job interview but not to/from the Job Centre to sign on (you are expected to make provision yourself which could be very tricky at the beginning as you don’t get the benefit until the ‘machine’ has ingested your signed & vetted application, processed it and spits out a magic amount on more paper which you most likely have to sign having shown two forms of identity.)

In my short time with the JSA process I cannot believe the number of gross inefficiencies exist – integration of data and electronic workflow doesn’t seem to exist. At the rate of bits of paper I’ve been given I’m going to drown in it – goodness knows where the Job Centres themselves hold the paper they generate for their own use…. big fire hazard in the basement possibly.)

I’m not looking forward to subsequent signing on episodes and queried why I haven’t applied for the obligatory two jobs pet week which ain’t going to happen. If I lose the benefit, so be it – I suspect the amount they give you is hardly worth the effort but it is something as long as it’s more than the cost of the travel… More to follow.

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The wonderings of an IT Techie becoming an Occupational Therapist

I am an IT technical specialist recently made redundant and have had the revelation that I had come to the end of a 30+ year career in the IT/Telecommunications industry and should be taking up a career as an Occupational Therapist. This blog is about the journey from the revelation to it becoming a reality (or not).

Firstly, a bit of history.

From the beginning of the time I began to think of what I’d like to do in life there was always a thread of thought that said ‘something in the medical world’. At the time, and up until the ‘revelation’, I had no idea what that would be.
Cowbridge Grammar School
In the sixth form at Cowbridge Grammar School in South Wales, I decided that I wanted to be an Electronic Engineer as I felt that this was where the future lay (as opposed to Mechanical Engineering – my father’s chosen career). The medical thread appeared when my first serious project was a biofeedback device designed to detect beta brainwaves and feedback as audio – it didn’t work.

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AWE from the air (courtesy Wikipedia)

After finishing secondary school, I gained sponsorship by the Ministry of Defence and was based at AWRE, Aldermaston which proved to be an excellent place for an aspiring engineer to do his apprenticeship. Due to its secret operations the site was more or less totally self-contained with regards to the construction of an atomic weapon. This gave the opportunity of exposure to an extremely wide range of disciplines. I was interested to discover that AWRE was where the first Kidney Dialysis machines were designed and built (there’s that medical thread again).

Following my apprenticeship at AWRE which included taking a three year honours degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Sheffield University (brilliant place to be) I stayed a further two years as a PTO ii (Professional Technology Officer grade 2) working on a classified communications project which taught me all about these new fangled devices – microprocessors.

This experience plus a strong frustration with the immensely burdening bureaucratic nature of the Civil Service and aversion to the prospect of working with ‘The Weapon’ I chose to leave AWRE and joined 3M UK Plc as a Small Systems Specialist working with Dave Lemin in the IT department.

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3M United Kingdom Plc
3M became my working ‘home’ for 24 years where I saw the introduction of the first corporate desktop computers starting with the Commodore Pet in the Pensions Dept, used by the Pensions Manager), running a program loaded from cassette tape to calculate Pension service dates for people who returned to the company following a job elsewhere (3M was a good company to work for and many leavers returned hence the need for the program).

Other computing power used by the 3M Marketing groups was an Olivetti P6060 which emulated the Geisco Timeshare facility – users would write & test their programs (using Geisco Timeshare BASIC language) then upload the program and data to the timeshare computer, via a special communications link similar to using a dial up modem, to eventually obtain the desired analysis.

Dave Lemin & I had desktop machines called the ‘Kontron‘ running a variant of the CP80 operating system called KOS (Kontron Operating System), the Kontron had a green screen (like mainframe terminals) and integral twin 5.5″ floppy disk drives (no hard disk) and for 3M were the forerunners of the IBM PC which, though just made available in the US (1981), appeared after the Hewlett Packard HP125 (another CP80 machine) in 1983/4.

After a checkered and a very full career with 3M UK, a company I still highly respect and have a fondness for (especially the people), I took voluntary redundancy in 2005 and spent some time experiencing the world of contracting.

The money’s good (or was then) but I soon found out the work availability was just a little too unpredictable and in 2006 joined Vodafone UK in Newbury as a Data Support Specialist. The role involved supporting Vodafone customers who used BlackBerry in conjunction with Lotus Domino email.

…to be continued….

Hello world! Says Dave Pike of Reading, UK

Hi I’m Dave Pike living in Reading United Kingdom. Reading is about 35 miles/56km west of London.

This site is under construction soon to be populated so watch this space!

Thanks for finding me and do come back another time when I’ll have something more interesting for you to read…

For inspiration have a look at:

Commitment by Goethe