As he prepares to start his first job in 16 months, Stephen Stubbs tells Channel 4 News that he has the government's work programme to thank for the successful end to his job hunt.
The work programme has come under fire from many quarters. But one job seeker said it had made a difference to his search for work by putting him in contact with the company that eventually hired him.
Channel 4 News has been following Stephen Stubbs' job search which has seem him submit some 2,000 applications in a 15-month period.
The Darlington man faced numerous barriers - he lives in the north east, an area of the country hit hard by the downturn, and is visually impaired. But in February he was hired as a finance application assessor by the Student Loans Company (SLC).
As he prepares to start work on Monday, Mr Stubbs puts his success down to the few weeks he spent on the government's work Programme. He was only referred to it in December, but takes up his position at the SLC after following his adviser's advice on interviews and tailoring his CV and their support in approaching employers.
Since Mr Stubbs started the work programme, he has secured the first two interviews of his entire job hunt. The first was unsuccessful, but the second resulted in the job at the SLC.
He credits this turnaround in fortune to the support of his work programme adviser in Darlington, who offered him training, interview preparation and advice that transformed his approach to job seeking.
"They do not sit back and let you do all the work," he told Channel 4 News. "They will actually sell you to employers.
"It was them who provided me with the links to the Student Loans Company, which allowed me to apply for the job, otherwise I would have missed it."
Launched in June 2011, the work programme replaced Labour's new deal and covers all age groups, including over-25s who, like Mr Stubbs, have been out of work for more than 12 months.
The scheme has been criticised in the past because of a lack of investment in advisers and for the fact that it does not guarantee work. In a speech to his party's youth conference, Labour leader Ed Miliband hit out at the coalition government for "a work programme which doesn't guarantee work",with people languishing on the scheme for years without finding employment.
But Mr Stubbs said that his experience has been positive and he praises his "proactive" advisers.
"I can't comment on every provider, but if they are like they are in Darlington then people should use them."
Mr Stubbs added that he would have considered any unpaid work which would have given him relevant experience if he had been offered it.
But with his start date looming, he is looking to the future and said he is even looking forward to seeing the national insurance and tax deductions on his payslip.
"Those deductions mean that I am back in the working world - I am working and earning a living."
His ultimate aim is to find a job in accountancy, the profession he retrained for after he became blind. But he said he is hopeful that he can put in to practice some of those skills in this role and recognises that it is easier to find work when you are in work.
"I am going to go in with a clear goal and see where this takes me," he said. "I want to make what I can of the remaining 20 years of my working life."
His advice to others in his position is to take any support that is offered and to keep trying.
"You only get out what you put into it," he said. "And you need to take any opportunities that you can."
While one man's hunt for a job comes to an end there are still almost 2.7 million people out of work, with 1.04 million of these young people. At its youth conference in Warwick, the Labour party set out its plan to tackle youth unemployment.
Labour's real jobs guarantee would offer young people guaranteed paid work for six months along with relevant training.
After 12 months of unemployment, all young people aged 18 to 24 will go to a six-month paid, job preferably in the private sector.
The government will pay full wages directly to the business to cover 25 hours of work per week at the minimum wage.
Participants must also look for a job and take part in training provided by their employer outside their working hours.
Mr Miliband said he wants the real jobs guarantee to be taken up by private sector business, with a presumption towards small firms wherever possible.
"For Labour, it is simply unacceptable to have so many talented young people out of work for an entire year, with their hopes and dreams evaporating," he said. "And that's why my ambition is this: to conquer long-term youth unemployment."
11 November 2010
11 November 2010