‘Soul destroying’ A4e course exposed on Twitter by former NUS Vice President

An employability course managed by the ‘welfare to work’ firm A4e has been criticised on Twitter by a former NUS Vice President.

Ed Marsh, former VP for Union Development, has been using the social network to expose numerous shortcomings in sessions delivered by 5E Limited, a subcontractor working on behalf of A4e.

The course, which Mr Marsh described as being “patronising” and “soul destroying”, is designed to help people on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) develop a CV and look for new work.

However, on the first day tutors from 5E Limited were only teaching theory to group because the centre did not have enough computers for them to work on.

Mr Marsh said one tutor refused to look at CVs brought in by four members of the group, and later referred to them all as a “batch of clients”.

One tutor, according to a tweet from Mr Marsh, said: “I’m sorry if you think this course is about finding and getting a job. That’s the title, but it’s actually not that.”

In one session the tutor told the group that anyone with a long name should shorten it, because employers “won’t want to ring someone if they can’t pronounce your name.”

Other advice given, according to Mr Marsh, included searching on Google for ‘writing a good CV’, deleting hobbies such as ‘I like to sleep a lot’, and removing any contact details for references.

Mr Marsh said there were also suggestions that they should lie on their CV.

On Twitter, Mr Marsh said the group was also told to sign a form on the first day declaring that they had received a health and safety document which had not yet been handed out.

A4e later apologised to Mr Marsh and recommended that he contact 5E Limited about any further problems.

However, other Twitter users who follow Mr Marsh questioned whether A4e should be taking responsibility for the work delivered by 5E Limited.

A4e has since confirmed they will be working with the subcontractor to resolve the problem.

Mr Marsh also tweeted that on the second day of the course he was served pasta, rather than chips, with a piece of fish for lunch. He said the meal was also served without a knife.

FE Week has reached out to A4e for comment, but not yet received a response.

You can follow Mr Marsh’s tweets here.

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  1. Kay Fabe

    Here’s your problem; “The course, which Mr Marsh described as being “patronising” and “soul destroying”, is designed to help people on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) develop a CV and look for new work.”
    Of course it isn’t! It’s designed to fool people that’s what’s happening while all the while what’s going on is plain old looting from the public purse. It offers no value to jobseekers nor to the public. The only profiters are the MPs involved (who can no doubt look forward to a nice consultancy like Blunkett’s got with A4E or directorship like John Reid’s got with G4S) and of course the companies that are the grateful recipients of all this luverly lolly! Anyone who threatens to come between these crooks and their loot by exposing the scams or refusing to take part gets sanctioned and that’s why there’s so many.

  2. Tinku Master

    I saw the amount of tweets that Mr Marsh have broadcasted while in the classroom, I wonder how much time did he actually devote to listen, understand and interpret the information which was presented in the classroom. I am definitely sure he has made his judgements without understanding the trainer’s perspective. Mr Marsh’s common sense would not disagree that it is really important to listen to the information fully and make sure that it is understood and verified before broadcasted. Having run those kind of training programmes myself, one of the pedagogies that trainers use is to create controversial debates in the class. There is a lot of difference between listening and interpreting the information.

    Let us take an example if I ask a question to the class what was John drinking? few students will respond Alcohol, few will say cola, few will say soft drink, but if you tweet that “John was drinking alcohol” before getting a final answer that “John was drinking water”, I am sure something is not right here.

  3. Unnamed

    It is very easy to blame Jobcentreplus, organisations like A4e and 5E when you yourself don’t want to take a blame. Being an Ex VP of NUS it is difficult for me to believe that Mr Marsh does not have a CV. I have attended this course and is not at all about what Mr Marsh have reflected here. The course promises to help with CV development and does not promise to do one for all participants! He must re-visit facts on his behaviour in the classroom, by not following code of conduct in the classroom he has not only being dis-respectful to the class and the trainer but also has set a wrong example.

    • Wayne

      It doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not he has/had a CV while doing this course if they decide to mandate you to it you HAVE to go. They are quite fond of mandating people to these ‘courses’ that are not relevant to the person or their support needs just to make it look like they are actually doing something to justify the payouts they get for these contracts.
      And if you agree that it is fine to tell someone that to lie on a CV is fine as long as they remember the lie then I think you have a problem.
      If they worried less about profit and more about appropriate training and support then maybe the number of people going back to work would be higher. But then I expect that maybe your the sort of person that believes that forcing the unemployed to work for free while poverty pimp companies like A4E make millions of pounds for doing almost nothing beyond treating the unemployed and the disabled like cattle.

    • Is Mr. Marsh on this course VOLUNTARILY? I hope so! If not then why should he follow any so-called Code of Conduct? It should be a matter of Lawful Rebellion! And has he been ‘forced’ to sign such a Code of Conduct? Is he expected to sign a Code of Conduct, or is it merely imposed?

      Having a CV is usually irrelevant in my experience when dealing with the Jobcentre, though I haven’t had to deal with the likes of A4E in that capacity. I dealt with them many years ago when doing a self-employment course with them.

      The Jobcentre like to be able to ‘help’ you (to tick a box and justify there own job)! It’s usually best to let them ‘help’ you to minimise possible sanctions and perhaps being forced into something more onerous. Then again it appears that everything these days is becoming or has become more onerous, particularly at Jobcentres and we have the joys of Universal Credit to come next year too! I shall no doubt be experiencing all this myself in the near future, but for now I’ve found a way to avoid all this slavery rubbish!

      So ‘asking’ the Jobcentre for help in making a CV is usually a good option. After all making such a CV does not compel one to use it when actually making application for jobs! It just means that a parasitic organisation gets paid money to help design a CV, and then when done they too have now ticked a box. All boxes have been duly ticked and they can all pass go and collect their blood-money!

      I got just such a CV many years ago through another of these parasitic organisations. I never used it. It was rubbish! My own CV was far better and they were being paid to produce this rubbish!

      Again I’ll add the proviso of VOLUNTARY. If one has really had a choice and chosen an organisation voluntarily to help them make a CV, well that’s a different matter altogether. FREE CHOICE!

      Love, Light & Laughter

  4. Dr Chris Byard

    Firstly there should be separate support provision for graduates and professionals, if he was an Ex-VP for the NUS, then I doubt he would need to be on mandatory JCP support provision probably designed for a slightly different audience. The JCP should do their job and refer people according to their skills needs to varied provision!

    Secondly, I cannot see a balanced view of the experience of Ed Marsh and what he is reporting on. What are the views of others on this provision on the day? Sounds like DWP JCP support provision to me. There surely has to be another side to this story, unless it is a personal attack by him on A4E.

  5. Anonymouse

    I just been handed my prison sentence (my a4e form yesterday) I have decided to go to an agency and get a temp job. This job will be against my set hours, but I don’t care. I’d rather an inconvenient job that go to that place! All the other training programmes I have been on have really helped me a lot and have encouraged me in my proper job goal which is something other than cleaning and picking up litter which the JobCentre would want us all to do. I would NEVER go to A4e, the tales I have heard have been horrendous. I am only unemployed becase I have had to care for sick parents. They label us all lazy scroungers.

  6. I think Mr Marsh may be inaccurate / selective / lying in his tweets.

    I have visited the Selby Centre, where many 5e programmes are delivered, many times over the last 10 years. His photo of pasta and fish looks like food from the Selby Centre cafeteria.

    To my knowledge, the cafeteria is independently run and is semi self service. Why does he appear to be blaming 5e, let alone A4e, for his choice of what to eat?

  7. I completely agree with Tinku Master and Unnamed. Seems as if something is hidden behind ed’s reaction.

    I believe that there is one point at which an individual starts complaining about everything which in this case includes complaining about every aspect e.g. organisations (both prime and the subcontractor), quality of training, trainer, even fan/air conditioner in the class, the food and the fact that knife wasn’t given. I mean how difficult is to go to the serving desk and ask for a knife. I am sure Ed no one would deny to give a knife if you ask for one!

    The time that you’ve spent tweeting and complaining had you been spending towards clarifying your doubts, I am sure you could have made a lot out of the opportunity that was offered to you.

  8. Tell the truth, NOT LIES! So NO to ‘dumbing down’ CV’s! If ‘they’ later find out the truth you can be so easily sacked for having lied on your CV. Not a good start! This then may become a part of your future CV that you may indeed wish to lie about! Nor is it yet a condition of receiving JSA (soon to be the wonderful UC) that one lie on a CV, or accidentally fail to include something. Later you may be forced to lie saying that it was an accident when it wasn’t! How far the lies then start to go! It is far easier to be truthful in the first place. Life is then so much simpler too!

    It is better to be hired honestly rather than on the basis of deception and lies, unless you wish to join the world of lies and inauthenticity, particularly where ego-self is placed above SERVICE to the Earth! To thine own SELF be true! If they don’t want you after telling the truth well so be it! In fact you may well be better off as a result!

    Tailoring a CV is not the same as deception. To tailor is to inform about what specifically one has done that relates to the job in question. That is not the same at all as adding qualifications one does not possess or not mentioning those one has. That is how one can show capability, especially in the absence of a piece of paper, assuming one can get a reference to support it. So one can have a skeleton CV that one adjusts to suit the occasion but it should never be necessary to lie or be deceitful with a possible future employer.

    I do realise we live in a world steeped in lies and power differentials such that not to lie may result in starvation, but one must stick to one’s guns as best one can. This is always a difficulty when signing on the dotted line in order to get one’s measly benefit! One must always decide for oneself how much truth to divulge and how to express it. Dealing with an employment advisor often entails telling porky pies of one kind or another. One is almost certainly not trying to get a job working for them! Conflicts with the employment service, benefit sanctions, tribunals, etc., none of these will find there way onto you CV, but lying on your CV potentially could, and you would be the one to pay for this because cow-towing to the likes of these EJC Advisors.

    I’ve challenged them on this point several times over the years. They cannot force you to not include your qualifications on your CV. They cannot sanction you for telling the truth, at least not this kind of truth anyway! They can however, sanction you, if they find out, for any behaviour at a job interview that actively militates against getting the job. This also apples to what you say on your written job application.

    I had just such a battle once with Ashton Job Centre many years ago when Morrison’s supermarket in Dukinfield informed the Jobcentre that I’d given my nationality as GAIAN on their job application! I criticised Morrison’s for wrongly including such questions in the compulsory part of the job application. Such are voluntary and should be separate! The Job Centre expected me to complete the application form in full (I was directed to apply after all!) for it to be valid, yet in law I don’t have to answer such questions. A bit of a catch-22 arose and so I chose to answer in my own way for I do not acknowledge membership of any one nation (merely an ‘accident’ of birth), and so my lowest compromise was/is to say I was born on planet Earth! Maybe if I’d simply said EARTH it would’ve been acceptable, but evidently GAIAN was not!

    I was later told I could’ve left the question blank, but still I’m sure I may well then have got into trouble for not declaring my nationality. They threatened to stop my benefit for this infraction demanding to know what I meant by Gaian. Apparently this did not appear on their list of nations! They wanted a definition! Oh dear, oh dear! After pressing my case for a tribunal and demanding full disclosure of all communications between Morrison’s and the Job Centre the case was suddenly dropped! I don’t think Morrison’s were keen on this. I suspect they had something to hide in what they’d written! Another one bites the dust!

    Love, Light & Laughter

  9. Peter

    I dis-agree with Kay, it is important to understand how many people actually attend these courses with an intention to learn? Some consider these classrooms as prisons others an opportunity to criticise government funded provisions over social networking sites. There are only some handful of individuals who are actually serious about getting somethings out of these provisions.

  10. Richard Newton

    This sounds like a JCP support contract which the JCP tendered in 2009 alongside FND provision in regional lots.

    The module that Ted was probably referred to would be a short 1-2 day course on employability and the market – These modules are theory based for short term unemployed individuals who are closer to the labour market. This knocks the credibility of his point that there are computers required for the provision, because they are not.

    Goes back to probably the Job centre and their advisors to blame again, mis informing people!

  11. Alex Hitchin

    I agree with Peter he should be focusing on the class, I think Ed Marsh had his own personal agenda or preconceptions with A4E or even government policy (old labour or the tories), and has used this to create a commotion, where he obviously did not want to gain anything from the provision.

    I have no idea what his quarrel on the food is either. I assume that is what he had ordered where ever he was.

    The JCP should have referred him elsewhere to relevant provision like Dr Byard mentioned.

  12. Eowyn Rohan

    The problem with any Black Box, commissioned by Job Centre Plus, is that from the taxpayers perspective, they have no idea as to whether their funds deliver pure, unadulterated baloney, or the best thing since sliced bread. Unfortunately, since course delivery is not delivered at College, the chances are that some pleb from G4S who has no Teaching Credentials, could be on Work Experience lest they be subject to a sanction.

  13. Marikar

    I have attended such courses and cast a professional eye over how they are presented. Just so you know I am a qualified adult education teacher. The presentation suggested to me that no for of lesson plan was evident. No effort was made to tailor the information to the target audience. There were 3 persons in the group who were unable to read or write and one person who is partially sighted (myself) who found it difficult to read anything more than arms length away. The whole exercise was pointless for at least 4 of those present. I found the whole experience insulting to be treated as a child rather than someone who is better qualified to deliver the course than the tutor.

    My experience is that WP do not look or match courses to skills and simply tick the boxes. The shame that goes with this is that attendance at these courses is compulsory. Time would be better spent by some real training, and not things like ‘how to write a cv’ or ‘finding out what skills you have’ or ‘budgeting advice or benefits advice’. It may well be that for some these courses could be of some help. But don’t simply assume because I have no job, that I have the mental age of a 10 year old.