Back in the early weeks of this year, I wrote a couple of things about how we could use the internet to help people handle the personal impact of the recession. Those posts generated a lot of conversation and several projects.
Thanks to the huge dedication of my friend Colin Tate, one of those projects has now hit reality. Signpostr is a site aimed at anyone who's not in secure employment - and particularly at those who've left education this summer into the toughest job market in a generation. It was inspired by my proposal for "digital resource-maps for people who have lost access to the market as a source of resources". Resource-mapping remains a key element of the site, but it also offers a place for people to talk honestly about how they're finding the search for work, and to get together and develop projects which make use of their skills in the mean time.
It feels like a long time since I was writing that "What you do when you find yourself with a lot more time and a lot less money on your hands than you’re used to... may be the most important question of 2009." Back then, people were still struggling to get a sense of the shape of the recession. Today, there's much talk of a rapid turnaround in confidence and a return to economic growth. In terms of unemployment, however, the hard times remain ahead for a great number of people. The latest figures show a record fall in the number of people in work, with under-25s particularly badly hit.
And for this year's education leavers, the reality of being out of work is starting to bite - a point made well by Lucy, one of our Signpostr bloggers, who graduated from the University of London this summer:
The summer days have ducked and slipped past us. It is September, and for those graduated this year, it’s a moment of horrible clarity. While failing to have a plan or concrete employment during July and August seems like a usual and fluid state of affairs, facing down a long winter in the same position is a truly unnerving experience. This is the first September in several years to be absent from reading lists and timetabled commitments, and it has arrived.
Hopefully Signpostr will prove useful for Lucy and others in her situation this autumn. We'll be doing our best to help users connect with each other, with potential employers and with other groups and organisations. And we'd like to invite you to sign up and explore it for yourself - and, particularly, to pass on that invitation to anyone you know who's looking for work, has just left or will soon leave education.