Employment: Ousted executives pool skills to fight back: Self-help groups and short recreational breaks are assisting redundant professionals in their struggle

EVERY Thursday night, members of the Executive Association gather in a management dining room at Marconi Instruments in St Albans. All are out of work, their prime goal to get a job.

This is why they have turned to the self-help group. Founded 18 months ago, it now has about 150 members. They are keen to learn how best to market existing skills and acquire new ones: the group provides opportunities for networking and brainstorming, hammering out ideas, as well as helping to formulate survival strategies and staving off depression.

The white-collar recession has hit the city, north of London, hard. Three years ago, there was just a smattering of redundant executives; now 45 per cent of registered claimants are categorised as professionals and executives, one of the highest percentages in the region. In a tight labour market, age is a big hurdle. Norman Gerald, the spritely 60-year-old who chairs the association, said: 'From the mid-30s upwards, someone will tell you that you're too old for the job.'

For those who had stayed with the same company for decades, the culture shock of redundancy is especially acute. Some members from very big companies have left with statutory redundancy pay and no outplacement counselling. 'The job for life has disappeared for many people. Firms are keen on short-term contracts. If you are not on the staff, they don't have to make you redundant,' Mr Gerald said.

The association wants to help members who are eager to become entrepreneurs and is pressing the local training and enterprise council to make empty office space available for nursery businesses.

For Graham Radband, 42, whose last full-time job was as a senior business analyst, ageism has so far stymied hopes of a permanent job in information technology. 'People are being declared brain dead at 35. It's such a waste of talent.'

When Mr Radband lost his job in 1992, he fired off 450 letters on spec to prospective employers, plus 150 direct job applications. But all he got was six months' work in a software house through a friend. He is now eager to upgrade his skills. 'A year in IT is like a decade in any other industry. Things move so fast. The danger is you can become trapped in a cycle. If you can't get your skills updated, you can't get back to work, and you can't accept a low-paid job because of commitments.' Government schemes cannot help Mr Radband with the kind of sophisticated training he needs - and the courses cost about pounds 3,000.

The association has had some success in helping members find temporary jobs, but it is moving into direct marketing: a skills register, listing available talents, is to be sent to local employers. A member can be in several categories. 'Skills are logged on our database. We are saying to employers: these are the skills, tell us which you are interested in, and we'll find you the bodies,' Mr Gerald said.

The experience of David Richards, a committee member, illustrates starkly how fortunes have changed for highly qualified executives. When he finished his fast-track MBA in 1989, he was spoilt for choice. With a background in physics and a record of marketing lasers worldwide, he was offered five director-level jobs.

But recession was just around the corner, and by June 1991, instead of heading the export arm of a large German company, he found himself joining the unemployment statistics.

Two and a half years later and 43, a full-time job remains elusive: he now looks after two young children while his wife goes out to work. 'The further you have to fall, the harder it is. Our lifestyle has contracted to a quarter of our previous income and that means no holidays and a second-hand car. We had already sold our house, anticipating a move to Germany, otherwise there is no doubt we would have lost it,' he said.

Belonging to the Executive Association has helped: the ability to network has led to some consultancy work. And then there is the companionship.

Mr Gerald, who lost his job 18 months ago, now also heads an embryonic national association pressing the interests of jobless executives. So far, there are groups in Stevenage, Maidenhead and Northampton. The St Albans association could soon have a new influx of members from Mr Gerald's former company, International General Electric Services, which is leaving St Albans for the US and wiping out another 190 jobs in the city.

(Photograph omitted)

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

IT Operations Manager - London - £55,000

£50000 - £55000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Relationship M...

Banking Solicitor NQ+

Highly Attractive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NOTTINGHAM - BRILLIANT FIRM - You wil...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past