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Choices, choices: pointless boot camps

Written By: - Date published: 7:25 am, April 17th, 2012 - 65 comments
Categories: benefits, jobs - Tags: ,

The government has splurged $20m putting 3,300 unemployed people through 6 week-long military ‘boot camps (the $6K per head cost is the same as 6 months on on dole). Result: up to 3 years later, only 19% have jobs. Compares to the typical stint of unemployment of 12 weeks. Looks a lot like the Nats are pouring money into a programme that makes unemployment worse.

OK. A person taking a boot camp course is likely to be a harder case than your typical unemployed person. For one, they’ve got to be reasonably confident they’re not going to be getting a job in the next 6 weeks before they would bother committing themselves. But they can’t be too hard case – wouldn’t get past the Army’s security and fitness requirements. And, even allowing for this, the numbers are extraordinarily bad. Only 19% of participants have jobs up to 3 years after doing the course and only 34% are in training. In the country as a whole, over 90% of people are no longer unemployed after a year.

Underlying premise of these boot camps seems to be that unemployed people are just too lazy to work. Good dose of army discipline will knock it out of them. Why else would you think that putting people in an army context for 6 weeks would help them get a job? This notion disproven by a number of facts 1) back when there were jobs, people took them. Were just 17,000 people on the dole (now 55,000) and the median duration of unemployment was 6 weeks (now 12). Ether people suddenly got more lazy in the last 4 years or it’s a lack of jobs that’s the problem 2) people taking the course have generally held jobs before 3) this is a voluntary 6-week course. Anyone lacking the ability to make a commitment isn’t going to be there. So, the roots of this is just more,unjustified rightie prejudice against unemployed people.

This is the same government, incidentally, that cut $2 million from the Tertiary Education Allowance, which was giving solo mums actual skills to help them into work.

And, no, we definitely can’t afford to extend paid parental leave.

With important things like useless boot camps to pay for, there simply isn’t the money.

[PS. I love MSD’s defence of the programme “While those numbers aren’t great, officials say the programme has wider aims. The Ministry of Social Development says that the programme’s success should also be measured in how it gives trainees more confidence, so when they leave they’re less likely to accept being unemployed and more likely to try and find work.” Except … the numbers tell a rather different story, eh?]

65 comments on “Choices, choices: pointless boot camps ”

  1. lprent 1

    Completely pointless. Recalling my time in the army, I can’t think of anything in basic that would be useful for job hunting.

    • SomeonePleaseThinkOfTheCatapults 1.1

      Well, you could potentially be fitter and more resilient, making you more likely to outlast the other 500+ applicants to the local supermarket’s minimum wage job whilst waiting for the job application form.

      Or, as JK’s personal bodyguard squad is the only segment of the economy seeing a “positive growth trend”, there could be an opening there.


      • Pete 1.1.1

        If fitness is the goal, wouldn’t free gym memberships be a better and less expensive option? Have their personal trainers liase with their case managers.

      • David H 1.1.2

        And well on the way to be a robot with the “Yes sirs” and “No sirs” and 3 bags full. A lot of brainwashing can be done in 6 weeks. lol

      • Fortran 1.1.3

        Any potential employer would look favourably on someone who has done bootcamp with a good report card, which is given.
        Same as somebody who has done Outward Bound – well done.

        • mike e

          footrot nothing more than catering to the ignorance of the rednecks!
          International research has shown that these redneck appeasement policies are worse than doing nothing which is nationals regular policy!

    • vidiot 1.2

      Discipline ?
      Self Belief ?
      Fitness ?
      Reliability ?

      • lprent 1.2.1

        In 6 weeks? Pull the other one…

        When I was in there a volunteer territorial would lose a pretty good chunk of their basic training with a week or two between it and the tech training. I know I did.

        After the tech training (at 3 months) it took months before I dropped back to my usual slothful state.

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.2

        Discipline ?
        Self Belief ?
        Fitness ?
        Reliability ?

        Yeah but you gotta learn those characteristics in civvy street. Preferably taught by parents to their children.

  2. And in further news Youth Transition Services is being “overhauled”, that is gutted.  In particular the south’s Work’n It Out programme is facing closure.  The programme is considered to be top notch and responsible for very low youth unemployment rates.

    The services are being targeted at only youth at risk and it appears will no longer be available for 15 year olds. 

    What does this Government have against young people? 

    • It only likes the ones who vote for it, and they’re usually protected by the fact that they’re also rich or otherwise privileged people.

    • Ron 2.2

      Youth Transition Services are being replaced actually.
      A new Youth services contract that targets 16&17 year olds NEET (not in education, training or enmployment) and the young people on DPB or ITB.

      What is interesting in the light of the MSD defence of the boot camps is that the new contract is almost draconian in the outcomes it expects to young people enrolled in it.

      They must achieve NCEA level 2, attend parenting and budgeting courses, and the service must ensure they stay off benefits. the contract payment for the contract depend on these outcomes being achieved. No mention of “…be measured in how it gives trainees more confidence, so when they leave they’re less likely to accept being unemployed and more likely to try and find work…”

      It would be interesting if those outcome requirements applied to the boot camps. There certainly wouldn’t be $20 mill paid out that’s for sure.

  3. tsmithfield 3

    I guess what we don’t know is how many of the group would be in work or training now without the intervention. For all we know, the results might actually be quite good compared to leaving them to their own devices.

    It is probably quite beneficially to have at-risk youth in an environment where they are given some discipline and focus, and basic academic and psychological needs can be assessed and initial steps taken to remedy these. So, if the course contains these elements, then it is a good thing.

    What I am not sure about is what happens after the course. The problem is, that once youth return to their previous environment with all the old cues, peer groups etc, then the potential for them to backslide back into their previous lifestyle is high. There needs to be an ongoing relationship with the youth, including mentoring and family support if the intervention is to produce significant results. It is relatively easy to produce dramatic change within a controlled environment, but much harder to maintain and improve the outcomes once youth are back in their previous environment.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 3.1

      “It is probably quite beneficial…” No it isn’t!!! Did you even read the article? Why can’t you people get it into your thick skulls that saying things doesn’t make them real??? For. Fucks. Sake.

    • TS I have a certain amount of experience in the area.

      Kids tend to do reasonably well on the course.  It is when they go back home afterwards that things fall apart.  They go back to the same neighborhoods, have the same mates, start drinking again, do drugs, have no chance of jobs because of the economy …

      If you want to do something about juvenile crime you have to address the causes.  Dressing them up in uniforms and teaching them how to march for six months does not do this. 

      • lprent 3.2.1

        Dressing them up in uniforms and teaching them how to march for six months does not do this.

        It isn’t six months (which might have an effect on behaviour). It is 6 weeks which is too short to do much behavioural change. They won’t even fully detox during that period and fitness gained in that short a period will quickly fade because they haven’t gotten the behaviours that will sustain it.

        With regular troops after basic, the army would normally have them mostly in their hands through technical training and then for several years. Territorials are usually self-motivated.

        Quite simply this is the result of some armchair warriors wet dream and is a complete waste of money.

        • mickysavage

          Oops right you are.  I was thinking of the camp in Rolleston for your offenders which is for a longer period.

        • jack

          No its not. My son went through it and I saw big changes with him. Bootcamp pushed him past his comfortable limits and even he was surprised what he could do when he put his mind into it.. He got a job when he got out and is now at Victoria University doing very well. He always was smart but lazy prior to his entering boot camp At his graudation at book camp there was a lot of optimism in the air. Mickey Savage is right, if there is a problem, then it is when they go back home. Definately worth its money.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            1) One kid is anecdotal evidence and not proof the whole program is useful.
            2) Was this the government’s six-week program or a longer one? Was it voluntary? If it was longer and voluntary, that likely explains why it worked.

      • tsmithfield 3.2.2

        I agree. And that is what I said, wasn’t it?

        Here is what I said:

        The problem is, that once youth return to their previous environment with all the old cues, peer groups etc, then the potential for them to backslide back into their previous lifestyle is high. There needs to be an ongoing relationship with the youth, including mentoring and family support if the intervention is to produce significant results. It is relatively easy to produce dramatic change within a controlled environment, but much harder to maintain and improve the outcomes once youth are back in their previous environment.

        Here is what you said:

        Kids tend to do reasonably well on the course. It is when they go back home afterwards that things fall apart. They go back to the same neighborhoods, have the same mates, start drinking again, do drugs, have no chance of jobs because of the economy …

        From the article above, 19% have jobs after 3 years, and 34% are in training. So, over half the participants are doing something useful with their lives. Given the low base many of these youth are coming from, this result may not be too bad. So, even given the limitations of these courses, and the room for improvement we have both identified, the results may be better than if the participants hadn’t gone through the course.

        • lprent

          From the article above, 19% have jobs after 3 years, and 34% are in training. So, over half the participants are doing something useful with their lives.

          At a significant cost. But to test that hypothesis you’d want to have run some double blind trials using alternate uses for the resources. For instance:-

          1. As many would have gotten jobs without going on to the boot camps (statistically highly probable)
          2. As many would have gotten training without going on to the boot camps (probable bearing in mind that is where the WINZ staff try to push kids without jobs)
          3. That you’d get better results for the money by simply subsidising more apprenticeships
          4. Providing remedial teaching facilities in high youth unemployment areas
          5. Providing assistance to move closer to jobs
          6. etc

          My bet is that you’d find that almost any other use of the resources was more efficient than frigging boot camps.

          But as another example of ideological stupidity, this entire programme was funded without any kind of study to test how effective it was. That was despite this whole exercise being proposed as trial.

          That was probably because the proponents really didn’t want to find find out how stupid they actually are. So they didn’t want to test their faith with some experimental evidence.

          • tsmithfield

            I agree that a study along these lines is the only way to get to the correct numbers.

            I would point out that youth unemployment is much higher than the general rate. for a variety of reasons. So, a comparison against general rates of unemployment is not appropriate.

            Also, those being targeted by the program are likely in a bracket where the rates of unemployment and lack of involvement in education may be much higher again than the general rate for youth.

            Therefore, if the program results in over half doing something useful with their lives, this may be very good compared to what they would otherwise have been doing.

            • McFlock

              TS: providing daily proof that even if you can’t polish a turd, you can roll it in glitter…
              So now the question is: why did the government spend $20million on a programme without an assessment framework to measure its effectiveness?
              Were they incompetent, or did they have a pretty good idea of the effectiveness of bootcamps overseas?

              • Kotahi Tane Huna

                TS “logic”:

                “If TSmithfield can be made into 100,000 meat pies and used to feed an army, this may be very good compared to what he would otherwise have been doing.”

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Again, even if it is better compared to baseline, it needs to be good compared to other potential uses of the same amount of money, not compared to the baseline. It’s not being argued that it might help some kids out a bit, but it’s certainly never been established that it’s worth its funding, or well-implemented.

        • Ron

          If you look at the outcomes and payments for the new Youth Services contracts – those numbners wouldn’t pay for the morning tea.

    • just saying 3.3

      Throwing yet more money at a failed scheme?
      Why not just provide adequate assessment and help for those in need of it without the money-wasting boot camp.
      Ps if you wish to argue that bootcamps are benefical for needy youth in the face of these appalling statistics, you need to provide a link. As I understand it, the bulk of the evidence is in the other direction, as was pointed out when the programme was first proposed.

    • Zetetic 3.4

      We can never know what would have happened with those individuals. But we can clearly see their stats are worse than most unemployed.

      Tens of millions are being spent on this. You should want positive evidence it works, not a theoretical possiblity it does no harm.

    • ianmac 3.5

      It is relatively easy to produce dramatic change within a controlled environment, but much harder to maintain and improve the outcomes once youth are back in their previous environment.

      Very true and that was the reason that residential schools for youth in trouble (like Kohitere in Levin),
      were closed down. Huge money had been spent, beautiful facilities, well staffed, high hopes but as soon as the boys returned hope they carried on where they had left off.
      It is the reason why boot camps are a waste of money.

  4. Kotahi Tane Huna 4

    Does anyone else feel like a stuck record? Yet another example of right wing fact-free prejudice and bullshit, producing worse results for everyone. Once again we have to point out that reality is in the opposite direction to government policy.

    The defence for this crap will be along the usual lines: witless parrots chanting “you just love spending other people’s money, nyah nyah nyah!”

    Stupid stupid stupid!

  5. Uturn 5

    “…it gives trainees more confidence, so when they leave they’re less likely to accept being unemployed and more likely to try and find work…”

    The most useful advantage to have when looking for a job in the city, is to be still in one.

    The most useful advantage to have when looking for a job in urban areas is find an employer who has work that needs to be done.

    Neither situation will guarantee you get paid for your labours.

    After that, it’s all used against a candidate and you can be fairly sure you’re either being employed for your looks, attitude, to randomly fill a gap, or to let someone else feel magnanimous. All of which are useful, if you immediately need money to live, but ultimately too unstable to eliminate the possibility of descent into poverty.

    Boots camps are a conedscending twisted sneering joke on the participants, much like the other tricks we play on the powerless within our social and economic system; telling them all kinds of idiotically simplified recipes to instant wealth.

    I realise this is not a hopeful picture for some person early and new in their “unemployed” stint, but there is more. I’ve mentioned before that there is no such thing as “unemployment” because it is a reduction of human life to financial unit from a capitalist viewpoint. It is really just a term for people not being paid. Imagine there was no government, no organised economy, what would we all be doing? Sleeping ourselves to death? Of course not. There is life and there is getting paid – one is a natural state, the other is an arbitrarily applied system.

    So far from kidding ourselves that a boot camp “gives confidence”, what it really does is attempt to indoctrinate people into the narrow militaristic thinking of the capitalist: Get mo’ money. Proceed in directly straight line. Everything do must equal money. Goal only reason to live. Ignore all peripheral events. Once money come, stop think. Repeat.

    If you want your own life, stay “unemployed” at least until you can see the difference between our system and your natural life. The things you will have to do and the stages of perspective you must travel will win you something better than conditional, powerless, market defined “confidence”.

    • Vicky32 5.1

      The most useful advantage to have when looking for a job in the city, is to be still in one.
      After that, it’s all used against a candidate and you can be fairly sure you’re either being employed for your looks, attitude, to randomly fill a gap, or to let someone else feel magnanimous.

      All very true in my experience! I feel like saying to the sexy pleasing young things who are my ‘invisible competitors’ to use the phrase an HR man taught me, “Youth’s a thing that will not endure”…
      (Written a week after my latest experience of an admin interview where I was told in a voice of faux concern, that the interviewer was concerned that I might be “too old” to manage”). In my experience, youth are ar great advantage, not a disadvantage!

  6. Hilary 6

    I know of a young person who went on one of these courses and was led to believe it would lead to a job at the end. Was very disappointed when job opportunities at the end were as elusive as ever. What’s more he had to go on a stand down for several weeks following the course to get the dole again.

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      Can easily imagine this. They go on this scheme and get told by middle-aged women about all the skills and opportunities they’ll have at the end of it.

      Come the end, the jobs don’t eventuate and the women go on to say the same bullshit to the next group. They probably know it’s bullshit, but they get paid for it so what do they care?

    • North 6.2

      Why in God’s name are they putting people in boot camps the real value of which is seriously and convincingly contested on efficacy and financial grounds ? When the outcomes disappoint they’ll blame someone else, probably the poor buggers who’ve not answered lifetimes of disadvantage in 6 weeks for God’s Sake. Anyone except Key and his minister.

      Tell you one thing……..I’d be bloody pissed off in the WINZ office the day after I finished being told – “NO…..standown for so many weeks. !

      Oh the blossom of their wisdom and the weed of their care !

  7. Frida 7

    Really interesting too, when MSD is still defending a number of negligence abuse claims in the High Court as a result of the last attempt at boot camps in the early 90’s. You’d think they’d have learnt their lesson the first time!

  8. prism 8

    I think this is relevant from Radionz. The South Island getting into work program is being cut back though it is successful and can be seen to be effective. This behaviour from a right wing government is another indication that they don’t really care about the NZ people as a whole, they just want to seem to do something about our problems. They aren’t interested in factual information and proven tested programs when deciding where to place funding, they want to proceed on their own prejudices hence ‘boot camps’.

    Boot camps are a Ron Franks, army approach, not a completely bad idea as outward bound type programs can help find personal strengths. But not directly applicable for finding jobs.

    Radionz this a.m.

    Southern mayors are lobbying to save a programme described as a blueprint for youth employment schemes.
    The Work’n It Out programme may have to shed most of its clients or even close as part of a Government overhaul of youth services.
    The scheme covers the bottom half of the South Island, and contacts every school leaver in Otago and Southland.
    Ministry of Social Development tender documents show funding for youth transition services is being narrowed from July to cover only 16- and 17-year-olds, and only those deemed at risk.

  9. Johnm 9

    Sounds like: Well if we can’t find real jobs for the unemployed let’s make them into a commodity so that the market can at least make money and profit from them, they’ll be useful then! Similarly to the Privatisation of agencies pressurising bennies and applying sanctions to find jobs that don’t exist but making a profit from the hapless bennies the ceos of whom live in big mansions. It’s the wind back of civil rights for further enslavement to the market.

    Boot Camps and Army training train you to be an automaton not a skilled worker able to successfully relate to others in the workplace.

  10. captain hook 10

    now all the tories who haven’t got jobs will get jobs bossing around lower socio-economic persons who dont have jobs.
    neat eh?

  11. Roy 11

    The courses can give the kids all the confidence in the world, but a few weeks of unemployment and a few rejections of job applications will soon sap all that confidence away again.

  12. Making a soldier= Breaking individuals and rebuilding them the way you need them.
    I wonder how many will end up joining the army and become cannon fodder.

    • Hamburgler 12.1

      travellerev – are you completely stupid or just pretending?

      “Making a soldier= Breaking individuals and rebuilding them the way you need them.
      I wonder how many will end up joining the army and become cannon fodder.”

      The NZ Army does not ‘make a soldier’ in the way you describe – you have been watching far too many American movies mate. People are not ‘broken’ at all. The NZ Army promotes resourcefulness, self-discipline and teamwork. People’s strengths are identified and those that have it are thrust into leadership positions, recon work etc within their rank.

      Uturn…are you stark raving mad? I don’t even think Karl Marx could have written such a rant. I was however disappointed not to find a reference to the bourgeoisie, considering you all stick to such a tight script on here.

      • travellerev 12.1.1

        Fuck your stupid. According to Nicky Hager’s book on the NZ Army in Afghanistan the NZ soldiers were of not much use to the US army. they prefer their soldiers angry and murderous and with no regards for international law unlike NZ soldiers it seems.

        So we have NZ soldiers training with (or rather being trained by) the US army in non lethal arms and later on in secretive exercises on the Desert plateau. What you reckon? They are going to be trained in ethical warfare (Such as it is) or the US variety.
        And Iprent, I keep forgetting you still believe the US is a noble super power who is defending the globe against bad Muslim terrorists.
        It’s a petty US soldiers don’t seem to see it the same way must be all that individual action, training and using their brains.

        • higherstandard


          ‘you’re stupid.’

        • lprent

          And Iprent, I keep forgetting you still believe the US is a noble super power who is defending the globe against bad Muslim terrorists.

          Huh? Where did you get that from?

          Personally I have a very strong tendency to want to keep well away from anything to do with US foreign policy and have done ever since the 1970’s. I also avoid having anything to do with any area that has a strong recruiting religious base (ie anywhere in the Muslim world, throughout the US, Ireland, the old Mt Roskill (been getting better recently), etc) because in my opinion that is where the nutters congregate.

          But I’d hardly describe the US or virtually any Muslim activist group as being noble. Both are extremists – rather like yourself.

      • Uturn 12.1.2

        Your clumsy outburst exposes who you are and encourages me. I especially liked the barely contained hysteria in the call to reform the ranks and give up my “stark raving madness”. Stop embarrasing yourself and accept we are engaged in social war and that, unlike you, you can’t expect people to dress in red and draw targets on their backs to make it easy.

      • Deano 12.1.3

        but … but … hamburgler, travellerev saw full metal jacket, so she knows all about the modern military

        • travellerev

          No Daeno,
          I grew up in the aftermath of the WWII ans saw first hand what it had done to people. Full metal Jacket was probably the film you wanked over as an adolescent thinking war was just great.
          Just like those poor fuckers killing themselves after a couple of tours in Afghanistan or Iraq

    • lprent 12.2

      Have to agree the Ham merchant above (even he is a bit of a fool).

      No-one in any modern army wants dumb stupid soldiers with a dumb obedience to orders – especially those other soldiers who are around them. That was a concept that hung over from the 19th century into the 20th. It was a technique designed for conscript armies who’d do war in the old stand up and fire single shot weapons. Where a soldier breaking would endanger every other person around them.

      Disappeared as the weapons became automatic and semi-automatic and the artillery got really destructive. These days all modern military emphasize individual action, training and using their brains. Consequently conscript armies are disappearing except for some of the informal forces (and they seem to specialize in conscripting children these days).

      • Colonial Viper 12.2.1

        Consequently conscript armies are disappearing except for some of the informal forces (and they seem to specialize in conscripting children these days).

        I have to say my young cousin playing Crysis 2 on the XBOX seems to have no problem for inventive, creative, highly skilled destuctive action.

  13. Kaplan 13

    When you consider the reason that the Nats did this was for the appearance of ‘tough on the unemployed’ then the program has been a success for them. Their core right support will be well pleased.

  14. irascible 14

    Perhaps WINZ can tell the public how putting an autistic (asperger’s syndrome) into a boot camp will improve his chances of gaining full time employment when his social skills, ability to communicate outside of his “speciality” have not developed enough for him to cope outside of a very limited situation?
    The boot camp was the only solution offered when he presented to look for work and assistance to find work.

    • M 14.1

      A person with Asperger’s can apply for an invalid’s benefit because of their different wiring. Boot camp is not a suitable place for unemployed youth particularly anyone who doesn’t fit a prescribed mould.

      Good luck.

  15. captain hook 15

    Employers need labour.
    not grovelling simpletons.
    what people do in their own time is nothing to do with employers unless the employer has a desperate psychological need to spy onhis/her employers which seems to be the argument some take here.
    what makes “employers” such special people?

    • prism 15.1

      Autistic people should be able to access help from outfits like Workbridge where the person is helped to get employment suited to them and then supported to ensure the best chance of success in the job.

  16. Rich 16

    Strikes me that these will have the same effect as everywhere else they’ve been tried – fit crims who can outrun the police (not hard, apparently). They could add anger management – that enables robbers to achieve the right degree of scariness without losing it.

  17. Adele 17

    These programs pre-date this government and have been in existence for a number of years. A majority of the youth that go onto these programs are Māori. Most often than not they get to enjoy the experience of being in ‘the army’ The discipline and the camaradarie they thrive in.

    However, once they leave the program – there is nothing to go back to in terms of employment, prospects, or progress. They leave hyped and ready to take on the world but eventually become dis-illusioned by reality of their circumstances. In the program they were made to feel worthwhile, in the real world they are made to feel worthless.

    • vto 17.1

      Hi Adele, I aint following you around this blogged-up place but … I can understand that and imo it is a crying shame. Your people are a strong and proud people who are smart and with countless attributes that any place in the world would regard as an absolute asset (for want of better description). I just wish we could get through the wrongs of the past and the negatives you suffer today and get on with things. Together we would blast across the globe. I have said this many times.

      That may, at first glance, not seem to sit well with my most recent comment on that other thread but the two matters are unrelated. Hopefully you can see through my google goggles too …

  18. Reality Bytes 18

    A program like this could work very well for certain people. People who have made a decision that this is a path which they can benefit from, a path that can help them grow. A path that is there decision.

    We already have such oppourtunities available for such thinking folks. It’s called seeking a role in the NZDF.

  19. captain hook 19

    its just more spenidng by national on its own out of work adherents who think they know how to make others work.

  20. Drakula 20

    Boot camps smell of fascism; there is a lot abusive language, physical violence and bullying. There will be those who benefit from such a nefarious system the survivors and the thugs who will no doubt serve the ruling elite when shit hits the fan. And shit will hit the fan.

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