The Government should pay employers who offered quality internships to disadvantaged young people if they find a job after their placement, a thinktank has urged.
Demos argued that the state made significant savings by moving young people from welfare to work, so there should be a "pay-back" from the Government to firms, especially those helping groups such as young offenders.
A report from the group also suggested a nationwide internship network so that firms could share experiences of working with disadvantaged youngsters.
Employers should be paid if their intern found a stable job within a year of completing any placement, said Demos.
Julia Margo, director of Demos, said: "Internships are about who you know and what you know. You need contacts and qualifications, but they should be seen primarily as a way to learn.
"Getting at-risk young people into internships will go a long way to giving them the opportunities and aspirations open to middle class graduates. We should think of them as a non-graduate talent pool.
"More important than paying people to intern is making sure they learn the skills they need.
"A quality internship that pays only expenses is far more valuable than one that pays people a low wage to do menial jobs."