Review – Employable Me: Series 2 Episode 3 “Kerie and Daniel”

The work experience/work trials continue this week and the regularity of them has been noticed by others across social media. This is also the week where we get to see some more less than ideal interviewers – although I wish there had been more focus on what they were doing wrong.

I lost my eyes when I was…well…I didn’t lose them, that makes it sound like I just put them somewhere.

Kerie

This week we meet Kerie, who is blind, and Daniel, who is a double amputee and uses a wheelchair.

Kerie has applied for hundreds of jobs after losing her job in a call centre; she is worried that if she does not find employment soon, she will have to move back in with her family. In her discussion about losing her job in the call centre, we get to hear an example of an organisation failing to make reasonable accommodations. Kerie was told that she couldn’t take any extra time on her breaks because it was “unfair to other employees”. Criticisms of businesses and organisations and their continual failure to make accommodations and adjustments for a diverse workforce have been quite minimal in both series’ of Employable Me so far – they would be a welcome addition in a third series.

Daniel was in employment of some kind or another from the age of 12, until he was run over by a police vehicle and had to have both of his legs amputated. Since then, he estimates he has applied for over 800 jobs.

Just because I have no legs doesn’t mean you can’t employ me.

Daniel

In the group job centre this week, the group members practice cold calling (which sounds terrifying if you ask me), and Nancy lays out the numbers. 50 cold calls will lead to one interview; three interviews to one job. So that’s 150 cold calls. I spend a lot of time on the phone for my job (it’s the hardest part of my job by far), but even I don’t think I’ve made 150 calls since the academic year started.

Once the group disbands and goes back to apply the skills they’ve learn to job-hunting, we see some pretty awful employers/interviewers. Kerie gets an interview and the interviewers asks her about her visual impairment – something that they are not allowed to do unless they’re asking what accommodations would be needed. Now – this is television so there’s always the possibility of editing but I have been on the receiving end of something similar when I was put on the spot and expected to convince the employer that my autism would not affect my ability to do my job, trait by trait. It was humiliating and I now know it was unlawful. The interviewer had no right to put Kerie into that situation.

All I need is one person to see past the fact that I can’t.

Kerie

Work experience turns up again as Daniel has secured some work experience in graphic design, a course that he was doing and ultimately failed due to the inaccessibility of public transport preventing him from getting to class and exams. I have read more and more about how people are being asked to do unpaid work experience for up to two or more weeks – which I find horrific. Where I work, we get a lot of applicants who are never going to cope well in a traditional interview setting. To work around this and get a better idea of applicants we are trialing drop-in interview slots where we have multiple applicants come in and have informal chats with the two managers followed by a week of paid training which involves completing the training workbook and concludes with an end-of-training interview where the final decision is made. They receive documentation of completing the training either way. We don’t know yet if this is the best approach, we will likely change in the future to make it better – but we would never dream of insisting people attending unpaid training.

Back to the episode, both Kerie and Daniel are struggling in their search for jobs and when the group re-groups back in London – they aren’t the only ones finding it difficult. So Nancy and Kerie practice some more interview skills, encouraging Kerie to be more assertive and confident in her abilities.

Nancy: The table’s in the way.

Kerie: That’s okay. I’ll just take a wing and we’ll do Strictly Come Dancing.

Based on the previous two episodes, we know that Kerie and Daniel are gearing up to their final, positive interactions with employers. Kerie is offered a full time, paid position and her genuine delight is great to see. Daniel, on the other hand, has a situation a bit like Marve last week where his final interviewer/potential employer falls flat. The employer wants Daniel to figuratively leave his wheelchair at the door because his disability doesn’t affect his work. Now, just because Daniel is looking for work in graphic design where an ability to walk is not an essential does not mean that his disability does not affect him or that the world does not disable him. The employer came across as thinking they were very forward thinking but actually I found it very reductive of Daniel’s experience. The employer has no idea in what ways Daniel’s life has been affected, continues to be affected, and his comments came across as dismissive. It also sounded like Daniel was offered an unpaid mentorship to hone his skills, despite the fact that his work was good enough to show to a client. If this mentorship is qualification level quality then arguably it’s not so bad – but a follow-up would be needed to see if Daniel’s mentorship ended up being more unpaid work experience that doesn’t really benefit the individual.

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