By Sarah Frey
Special to the News
I have four little words that you’re desperately trying not to hear: update your digital strategy.
Has anyone who works at the job bank actually tried to, you know, use its website? It’s bad.
What’s worse, it’s virtually impossible to give feedback. I spent a large part of my morning scanning your website for a feedback link or contact information of any kind. After finally finding the “Contact Us” page buried somewhere on a generic Government of Canada website, I formally submitted a comment that then yielded the message: “403 Error – Forbidden Access.”
So while my intention at first was to not express this advice in a public forum, the lack of willingness to cultivate data on your user’s experiences has left me with limited avenues. In short, the online federal job bank platform is failing to meet the needs of the user (in this case, also the taxpayer). As a result, it’s more difficult for some of the most vulnerable members of our society to find jobs, and for small businesses and organizations to find workers.
Annually, I hire for a six-month internship that is open to young Canadians across the country. It is an opportunity that pays a living wage in an industry where unpaid internships are commonplace, and focuses on skill development over coffee fetching. In order to conduct my annual hire, I rely on multiple job listing sites that put my organization’s opportunity in touch with talented candidates from across Canada. With most of the stronger job listing platforms, a posting fee can range anywhere between $50 to $500 per job post. As a non-profit organization, every dollar really does count.
The federal job bank would appear to be a strategic and beneficial service, as a free platform that connects opportunities with Canadians across the country, and can be filtered via industry, skill level, and region. However, what I came to find during this year’s search, is that the federal job bank (jobbank.gc.ca) demanded far too much background information and too many authenticity checks, ultimately preventing it from being a user friendly platform.
In order to provide the level of mandatory information to simply register my organization, I had to fill out a long and complex form, contact my accounting department, wait for them to look up and forward me the financial information.
Then I had to submit said financial information. Then wait for a five-day approval period. Then be told even more financial information was needed. Then contact accounting again. Then apologize to accounting for the extra work. Then submit extra financial information. Then be told it didn’t match their records.
Ultimately, I gave up on posting the position. It is no exaggeration when I say that the unnecessary bureaucratic demands of this service took up literally hours of work between my colleague and me. Again, for an organization like mine, that time could have been much better spent serving our community.
After about a week and a half from initially attempting to register an account, I received a personal call from someone at job bank HQ requesting me to verify my financial information before proceeding. While the call was appreciated, and I was able to post the position for the final days of the competition, I was left to ponder how many tax dollars could be saved by just having a user-friendly system in the first place.
My frustration is not with the extra work, or even with bureaucracy, for that matter. The failure of the federal job bank’s digital strategy is that the amount of mandatory information required creates barriers to accessing the service. Organizations like mine, and most small businesses, do not have the human resources or annual budgets to pay private job search platforms, and therefore seriously rely on public digital services like the federal job bank to connect us to potential candidates.
The result is missed opportunities for those unemployed and underemployed and a waste of money for business and non-profits.
Within any digital platform, a focus on being user friendly means that users are more likely to engage with your platform. And for a digital job bank, more users participating means the service becomes stronger.
In regions like the Yukon, we rely heavily on community based job banks like YuWin.ca. Our local job bank is not only non-profit run, and therefore free, but it is well organized, clear, quick to load, and puts significant emphasis on being a platform focused on the user. Funding for YuWin.ca has been challenged as redundant due to the existence of the federal job bank. Local sites make up for the failures of the federal job bank and do better at meeting local employment needs.
So federal job bank, I ask you to re-evaluate the needs you were created to meet, and to consider how the unnecessary barriers on your website are ultimately hindering your effectiveness. I ask you to assess why you feel organizations need to provide such an absurd amount of financial information. Is collecting that information worth preventing so many users from taking advantage of a publicly funded service?
Lastly, I ask you to include literally any method for users to provide feedback, so that I no longer have to rely on publishing an op-ed in the newspaper to give you advice on your digital strategy.
Sarah Frey is a writer, activist, and chair for Equal Voice Yukon Chapter based in Whitehorse.