Centres should be set up within companies to assess young people's skills and their ability to get and hold down a job, according to proposals designed to shape the New Deal for the young unemployed.
This is one of the recommendations made by a partnership in Leeds between the local training and enterprise council, the Employment Service, the city council and the careers guidance service to deliver the Government's programme.
The centres could be a practical, long-term remedy for youth unemployment, according to a report by their backers. They would offer work experience and training "tasters" to check that a young person has chosen the right job. They would use employers and others to help young people find out for themselves what potential jobs require.
A professional placing and mentoring team would help a young person to find the right option under the New Deal, and provide a safety net if issues arise which could disrupt their learning or training.
In Leeds there are 5,724 unemployed people, and 2,396 have been without jobs for more than six months. Some 50 per cent of the jobless live in eight inner-city wards; 74 per cent are male, 26 per cent female.
Research shows that for those aged under 21 the barriers were: being young and inexperienced; the jobs wanted are not available (particularly reported by students); and a lack of qualifications.
A TEC survey of unemployed people of all ages also identified lack of skills or qualifications, insufficient experience and the lack of appropriate work. But the survey also mentioned: too low wages; no transport; employers' attitudes and recruitment practices; lack of self-confidence; and lack of understanding of in-work benefits.
A survey of 200 employers in Leeds named four skills missing in job candidates. They were enthusiasm, initiative, commonsense and motivation. One employer said: "Attitude and behaviour is 90 per cent of success."
The Leeds partnership wants schools to be forced to offer careers education from the age of 11. A clear approach to vocational learning within school is required while young people are in compulsory secondary education. Fourteen and 15-year-olds should be assessed for their employability. The key to preventing a new generation of unemployed young people was in the way the transition from school to work was managed.
Under the New Deal there are four options: private-sector job; work with a voluntary-sector employer; full-time study; or a job with the environmental task force.
The priorities, says the Leeds partnership, should be full-time education, vocational training opportunities and wage subsidy options.
"This does not mean, however, that the voluntary sector and Environmental Task Force options should be in any way a second-rate or 'sink' programme, but that their efforts ought to be be very clearly targeted to the groups which need that additional help."
The Leeds report warns against the creation of an alternative community programme, similar to that of the 1980s, where "while very worthwhile work was done, it did not directly connect with jobs in the real labour market and sustainable economic self-sufficiency".