where did the casual work go?

One major change since I was on the job market at the end of the last millennium is the abolition of the way into employment in universities by doing casual work. This was in fact the way ILRT recruited a lot of its staff, and a lot of the best ones: someone was taken on for a few weeks, and if they proved to do the job well their employment was extended, in many cases being converted into a permanent job.

I contrast this with some posts recently advertised near here. First time round four candidates (disclaimer: I was one) were shortlisted for the two identical roles and went through a selection process, but no appointment resulted. The posts were re-advertised but again no one was appointed. They were advertised a third time, with vaguer indications of the salary, and the process seems to have been again unsuccessful.

In the past, this would have been much less likely to happen. Without a strict ‘point-scoring’ level that candidates had to reach, there would have been flexibility to offer the posts to any of the short-listed candidates, relying on the probation period in the job as a safety net if one proved inadequate in practice. The work was done as part of a closely-knit team, so there would be limited damage they could do.

Offering short-term contract work and seeing how people got on would have been another possibility, with the possibility of extending it; this is quite common in the commercial sector. Instead, an expensive recruitment process has been repeated over and over, and the backlog of work the appointees would have done has been piling up. It does provide employment, but in the Human Resources department!

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