UNEMPLOYMENT in East Lancashire is now the worst it has been for many years and the young are suffering badly.

Our area has traditionally relied strongly on manufacturing and been adversely affected by all kinds of competitive pressures, as well as the general economic depression.

Anything that might improve our situation is welcome, like Lancashire County Council’s £7million business incentive scheme.

The idea is that clusters of ready-built units will be established to help small and medium-sized businesses grow and create jobs at places like the Samlesbury enterprise zone.

Some might say the money now being channelled by ministers through the Conservative-run council merely replaces work previously done by the North West Development Agency and Business Link – organisations shut down by the coalition government as it boasted of ridding us of quangos.

Like other governments before, it now finds it has to invent new ways of achieving similar ends – and pay a new set of start-up costs! But no amount of ready-to-move-into offices and factories are alone going to solve our escalating unemployment.

We have to be competitive on costs and the quality and commitment of our workforce.

A fascinating TV documentary last week highlighted an increasing problem that no amount of swanky buildings can make up for.

It profiled an entrepreneur who makes cushions and has factories in China and Kirkby – one of the most deprived areas of Merseyside. He highlighted how China is fast losing its reputation as merely a ‘cheap labour’ place to make things.

The cost of living is rising fast and workers are demanding, and getting, pay rises.

This means manufacturers are making judgements on a lot more than price alone when they place orders.

With this backdrop, the employer was eager to help some people in Kirkby get off the dole and run an experiment to see how they shaped up in comparison with their Chinese counterparts.

Sadly there was one area where the North West young didn’t compete so well.

We’re talking about regularly going sick, turning up late, or just walking away from the job (without even the courtesy of letting the employer know).

No employer would insist that anyone should be forced to work if they are truly sick. But what’s a ‘week in bed ill’ for one person is a couple of days at work ‘feeling a bit rough’ for someone else.

It’s nothing to do with education, background, or social class, but it might well have something to do with attitudes some of today’s youngsters picked up from their parents.