We need jobs and we need them now

20th August 2010 at 01:00

Luckily I didn't vote Lib Dem, else I would be raging. Times are hard, and cuts would have to be made by any party, but somehow I am more hurt by their coalition sell-out to David Cameron than by less money in my purse.

I think I did hear that there would be fewer university places, and that cheered me up a bit. I'm all for education, but not if it means a drop in the quality of tertiary education. At the moment, we have too many graduates and too many degrees that really don't mean very much.

Of course let us have a wide-ranging variety of choices after school, with places for everyone who merits it. But there is no need to label everything a degree. And there is certainly no need to make the choices all educational.

We need jobs, and we need more jobs. It is strangely eerie in big shops now, with no staff in sight. A cafe had one young lad - I was expected to clear my own table. That would be fair enough, except I'd rather someone was being paid to do that for me than have no job.

If the Government subsidised apprenticeships properly, it would ultimately save money and we would have less trouble finding workmen. Offering a course at a college will not churn out competent workers.

Further up the social ladder, we have highly-paid doctors, managers and lawyers who are so overworked that they have long lost the work-life balance. A third less money and a third less work would mean more jobs and less stress.

Unemployment is the scourge of our society. We must now be on to the fourth generation in many families with no experience of employment. Their benefits might seem generous, but the reality is that the children are being born into poverty. We need decent, cheap childcare, which creates more jobs and is often better for the child, so that parents can work.

Maybe we need to invent a few jobs. If a household is so dysfunctional that the children are about to be taken into care, would it help to put in some support? Someone there to get the kids out to school, to get the washing on, to make the phone calls, to help create some order in the chaos of a family's life? They did that in America and it worked well: families began to thrive, so they withdrew the support and the family collapsed again.

Yet the cost of one person's wages for a year would be the cost of a single child in care for four months. If it kept youngsters out of trouble and in school each day, how much would that save in the long term? Think policing, think health care, think the cost of an alcoholic or a drug addict.

We are also woefully careless in looking after adults with learning difficulties or physical disabilities. They don't need to work full-time, but they do need to work for some of the week. Yet the schemes offering them support to get jobs are easily closed in cost-cutting exercises.

I no longer believe education is all. We don't need millions of graduates. But we do need millions of jobs and if the Lib Dems are ever going to hold their heads up again, they need to push the Government into creating them instead of cawing the feet from those who already have nothing.

Penny Ward is a secondary teacher.

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