It makes sense on the surface.  A job is the best sort of welfare. Cut company tax and there will be more jobs as they trickle down from the wins companies accrue.

So the story goes, but what is the reality on the Mornington Peninsula? We heard recently from the Shire that there are jobs – in construction, hospitality, tourism and healthcare, in fact, they estimate there are roughly 500 jobs in tourism and 200 in hospitality unfilled in this area. Yet unemployment amongst young people is around 20% – a staggering 45% in places like the Tanti Park (Mornington).

We’ve spent time lately with a number of organisations working with young people and with young people themselves and there is no quick solution to the high rates of disengagement, least of all through jobs. Understanding the reasons underlying disengagement whether it be of school or work is critical in taking steps to address it.

One program we supported that was aiming to train 12 young people in tourism and hospitality to equip them for employment succeeded in getting none through the course. It wasn’t that they hadn’t tried really hard to make this work. The staff are incredibly dedicated and integral. The challenges the young people present with, however, are overwhelmingly complex and cannot be overcome with a short training course. The challenges are deeply rooted and are manifest in behaviours that seem self destructive but in essence are about preservation in an unsafe world.

This work is complex and long term. As funders we need to listen really carefully to what actually happens in such grant making and it is from these ‘failed’ grants that we can learn the most; in fact, these can be our most successful as we start to do things differently and give people at the coal face the opportunities to think more broadly too. We’re continuing to work with this organisation and excited to have robust conversations about future plans that get to the heart of the issue but that will not be solved with jobs alone.

As the jobs proliferate on the Peninsula we need new ways to work with people who are long term unemployed and we need to listen to people closest to them to learn what these new ways are.

An interesting and unexpected by product of the After School Tutor program we are supporting in Capel Sound has been the connection of some of the parents of children in the program to employment. This hasn’t been about training and placing in employment, but has been the result of supporting the individual, usually a single mother, with social and emotional support that enables her to grow and then herself take on the task of gaining employment. We have invoked connections to help, but essentially each woman does it on her own because she has been empowered to get to that point.

We love the unexpected outcomes that come from our grant making – being open to what we don’t know, to what might happen, to what we don’t expect, is opening up solutions to complex problems.