MF told me his computer reservation was for a time when she would be off the desk, and could I get him started?  He wanted to apply for a part-time janitor position with Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.  Yes, I said, I would get him started.

He came to the desk when it was his time, and I went with him to get him started.  Often job-seekers are fairly new to the Internet, driven by necessity.  We will help them navigate to the site they need in order to apply for the job they want, but after that, they must learn to swim.  The library offers basic Internet classes for beginners needing instruction.

I got him to the position he wanted to apply for, and told him to click on "Apply now".  "One click or two?", he asked, which was somewhat encouraging.  The next page asked him to sign in, if he had registered, or to register, if he had not.  I explained this to him, but he did not make a move to scroll down and proceed to register.  Did he have an e-mail account?  He did not.  Did e-mail accounts cost anything?  Now I knew we were not getting anywhere.

I think he was around 60-years-old.  He didn't seem to engage with the page on the screen at all.  I think he was probably marginally literate, but not enough to apply for a job online.  I had no confidence that if we helped him get an e-mail account, he would be able to check it for a response to his application.

He said that he had signed up for a computer class at the Senior Center in April.  I suggested that he hold off on applying for the job, and he agreed.

I could probably count on my fingers those who have asked for my help using the Internet who were as illiterate as this man.  One of them, a woman, also wanted a cleaning job at Tallahassee Memorial, and I remember thinking at the time how unfair it was to make such people apply online.

Later that day, another man asked for the Sunday classified ads, only to return them, saying that there were not any job listings.  Yes, I said, job and real estate listings were now almost completely online.

I feel for today's job hunters, having to apply online.  The last time I applied for a job was in 1992, and it was in-house at the library.


Steerforth said...

Very sad and as you point out, quite unfair that people who are barely literate are now being effectively barred from applying for unskilled jobs.

The internet is also marginalising the elderly - people like my mother, who has been told on several occasions that she can't set up an account without an email address. She has never touched a computer and is adamant that she doesn't want anything to do with the internet.

If and when they finally get rid of cash, life is going to become very hard for anyone who isn't connected.

Brett said...

True, I almost never pay cash now, and when I am asked for a hand-out, I have to reply that I don't have any to give.

Many businesses no longer have customer service telephone numbers. Increasingly, they can only be contacted through an e-mail web form.