£1 billion youth employment programme launched

A new £1 billion programme aimed at helping 18 to 24 year olds into work and training has been launched by the Government in a bid to tackle youth unemployment.

The Treasury is to subsidise the Youth Contract scheme with wage incentives for 160,000 places, meaning businesses will receive up to £2,275 in cash payments for every young person employed.

The Government also plans an additional 20,000 incentive payments specifically aimed at small business apprenticeship placements this summer, with a commitment to creating an additional 250,000 work experience places over the next three years.

Receiving support from various business groups, the programme has attracted some of the UK's largest companies who have signed up to the '16-24 Alliance' who plan to recruit 50,000 unskilled young people.

Speaking at the launch, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and employment minister Chris Grayling said the Government wanted to tackle youth unemployment 'before long-term damage' was done.

John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Business isn't just good for Britain - it's good for young people, too. Companies tell me they are ready to play their part to support the next generation into work, since young people are vital to future business success.

"For too many businesses, economic uncertainty has made it tough to hire more young people over recent months. Companies are concerned that many lack basic skills or past work experience. That translates into higher training costs and greater risk for employers.

"The Youth Contract will significantly reduce those risks, and give employers more confidence to invest in young people."

The Youth Contract is open to all businesses, including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), larger businesses in the retail and construction sector, and those in emerging sectors such as 'green' businesses and ICT industries.