Just the Job
In the wake of the recession, unemployment is still a major issue, for the UK as for many other European countries. But the economy is picking up, albeit gradually, and a new scheme has been set up to help the chronically unemployed re-enter the job market. This scheme takes advantage of bespoke kiosk technology which match job-seekers to vacancies.
New kiosks have been developed as part of a collaboration between two UK companies, and are being deployed as part of the Welfare to Work programme.
The concept of Welfare to Work was developed in the US and Australia and brought to the UK by the last government under various New Deal headings. The current coalition government developed it further in the Work Programme, which was launched in June. This redevelopment created a competitive structure that incentivises private sector providers to support the long-term unemployed back into sustainable employment. They only get paid significant amounts when jobseekers have been back in work from six to eighteen months.
Kiosk4Jobs is a joint venture between two UK companies. NeoProducts specialises in designing and manufacturing interactive kiosks. The company has particular expertise in job-finding kiosks, having previously supplied 9,000 Jobpoints to the DWP. Kaonix Solutions Limited is an innovator in online recruitment technology. It has developed systems that quickly match jobseekers to currently advertised job vacancies, which are being viewed as a vital tool by suppliers of the DWP’s Work Programme. Kiosk4Jobs puts the latest technology from both companies together in a managed solution package.
Special kiosks have been designed which will be located either in the offices of Work Programme providers or out in the community, to be closer to their job-seeking clients. They work in a simple way. The jobseeker is given a login by their personal advisor. That advisor will also help them to input a CV – or to build one if they don’t have one already. The CV is then matched automatically each day against the latest current vacancies. Having logged in at a kiosk, the jobseeker can see and apply for those vacancies. They can also carry out other job searches against criteria that they specify with a simple-to-use touchscreen interface. All types of jobs, in both the public and private sectors, will be made available to browse through this system. The kiosks work by accessing the internet, although access is restricted only to the sites that users need to reach in order to find a job.
The kiosks have been manufactured to a specification developed in collaboration with the DWP. Leading experts in accessibility were consulted to make sure that anyone could use the kiosks without difficulty. Project Manager and industry expert, Gary Rowing-Parker commented, “After an in-depth consultation and design process, we are confident that the kiosks can be used by the widest possible range of job-seekers.”
Rowing-Parker explained why these kiosks constitute a superior solution to the PC in the corner connected to the internet, which you might find at a typical careers centre. “The locations where these kiosks are being deployed are tough environments for PCs. The suppliers tell us that managing conventional PCs and printers that are made available to their clients is highly problematic. Looking after them means staff have less time to help jobseekers. They want a ‘fit and forget’ solution. This is what kiosks give them.”
Kiosk4Jobs was officially launched at the Welfare to Work Convention 2011, in Manchester, UK, in June. Both the entry level desktop and wheelchair-friendly models were demonstrated.
“Feed-back from the prime contractors and larger sub contractors who visited our stand was consistent; the kiosks were seen as the perfect solution for outreach service provision. That means providing job access in rural areas where the contractors could not justify the expensive of a permanent facility. By locating the “branded” kiosks in local authority offices, libraries, post offices, etc., unemployed people in remote locations would have the convenience of a daily new vacancy alert service, and the providers can monitor job seeker activity remotely.”
Eighteen ‘prime contractors’ won contracts with the DWP to deploy the kiosks, and there are over 600 sub-contractors to those prime contractors. Some of the kiosks will be in the offices of these contractors. The rest will be in 'outreach' centres belonging to various other public and third sector organisations such as libraries. But all will belong to the Work Programme contractors. Trials began in August.
Rowing-Parker concluded, “As it is likely to be the larger providers that utilise the kiosks, we expect orders to be in the region of several hundred in the first 12 months of the work programme launch and as high as four figures once they demonstrate their value to the service providers. How do they demonstrate value? By putting more people into work and thereby earning more income for the Work Programme providers.”