Government gap-year funding for graduates

Author: By Andrew Woodcock, PA

The scheme will help graduates take part in overseas expeditions with Raleigh
International, working on development projects such as building schools and
improving sanitation and it is designed to help them develop the “soft
skills” like leadership, teamwork and communication which will make them
more attractive to employers.

According to The Times, the £500,000 scheme will fund up to 500 participants,
who will be expected to raise £1,000 themselves and pay for their own
flights and vaccinations for the trips, which would normally cost about
£3,000 a person.

A spokesman for Lord Mandelson’s Department for Business, Innovation and
Skills (BIS) said that details of the scheme’s financing would not be
available until its formal launch in the coming week.

He said that it was intended to help young people from poorer backgrounds, who
are often unable to access the sort of travel and adventure projects which
help their more well-to-do rivals improve their employability.

But critics said that the scheme appeared to be a way of reducing graduate
unemployment at a time when record numbers are remaining jobless for six
months after leaving university.

Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The Government’s attempts
to keep people off the unemployment numbers at any cost are growing more and
more transparent.

“This kind of charity, paid for out of the taxpayer’s pocket, is unfair and
unsustainable.”

Adverts for the scheme are expected to ask: “Have you recently graduated and
feel like everything is all doom and gloom?” Joining an overseas expedition
“could be just the thing you need to inject some excitement and optimism
into your life”.

The first participants, who must all be aged under 24, are expected to travel
to far-flung communities in the developing world to take part in projects in
the months before Christmas.

The BIS spokesman said the scheme was one in a range of measures designed to
help young people through the current economic downturn, others included an
increase in the number of university places and last week’s announcement of
an internship programme.

A BIS spokesman said: “The project to help a small number of graduates from
poorer backgrounds which we will announce shortly with Raleigh is just part
of a massive push from the Government to expand opportunities for young
people to help them get on in life and into work – particularly in tougher
times.

“As we said alongside the launch of Alan Milburn’s report last month, we want
young people of all backgrounds to be able to access good jobs and ensuring
graduates most in need of support can build the soft skills we know
employers see as important is part of that work going forward.”

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