Clegg champions youth jobs drive
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has appealed to businesses to sign up to the coalition's drive to tackle youth unemployment.
The £1 billion Youth Contract is intended to create at least 410,000 new work places for 18 to 24-year-olds over the next three years.
Under the scheme, from April firms who take on youths will get help with their wages worth £2,275.
"Getting young people earning or learning is my top priority, and that's what the Youth Contract is going to do," the Liberal Democrat leader said.
"This is a long-term boost to help business get young people into jobs before lasting damage is done. Employers have a huge part to play in this and the subsidy we're announcing today benefits business and young people.
"Today I'm writing out to thousands of employers of all sizes - from global corporations to small local firms - calling on them to look at what we're offering through the Youth Contract and sign up to offer jobs from April. This is a significant moment and a call to arms for businesses to offer long-term opportunities to young people who are out of work."
Mr Clegg made his comments as he met young apprentices at K&M McLoughlin Decorating Ltd in Islington, north London, which has its own school where youngsters learn their trade.
The firm was started in 1988 by Kevin McLoughlin, who worked his way up from being an apprentice to owning the company, which has a turnover of more than £6 million a year.
It has been involved in some of the capital's biggest building projects, such as the Olympics sites, St Pancras station and the Savoy Hotel's redevelopment. The firm opened its decorating school in October 2010 and now has 22 apprentices.
Mr McLoughlin, 54, said the last 25 years have seen 90% of companies stop training youngsters. "It is mainly due to the major contractors," he said. "They have systematically driven down prices, causing a downward spiral where, to claw back profit, many sub-contractors have been forced to cut costs to the bone. Training has been seen as 'expensive' and apprenticeships have been the casualty."