All newly qualified teachers in Wales could be guaranteed a placement for their induction year, as part of an overhaul of teacher training to be announced next month.
The long-awaited review, ordered by the Welsh Assembly Government, aims to redress the balance between the supply and demand for teachers in Wales. If approved, it would follow a Scottish model already successfuly in use.
Union leaders have warned that unless graduates in Wales can be assured of a job to complete their induction year, many will be forced to work elsewhere in the UK or even leave the profession.
Posts in Wales are scarce; the primary sector is worst affected. Figures from Swansea Institute of Higher Education show 30 graduates from 2004 are still looking for work, 16 are teaching outside Wales and 21 have given up altogether.
Gethin Lewis of the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said: "We risk losing some first-class teachers as well as the massive investment put in to their training unless they can get a post here."
The review is being carried out by Professor John Furlong, director of Oxford university's department of education. Unions and the General Teaching Council for Wales want a Scottish-style system where newly qualified teachers are guaranteed a placement for their induction year.
So far, the measure seems to be working north of the border. Just 61 Scots applied for an undergraduate teaching course in Wales this year compared with 9,808 Welsh students and 9,387 English students. But, despite warnings that Wales is continuing to turn out too many primary teachers, courses are still oversubscribed. Swansea Institute, for example, turned away hundreds of students this year, despite many of last year's intake failing to find work.
The Welsh education minister, Jane Davidson, has already cut primary training numbers by 5 per cent from this September with a similar cut expected in 2006. John Parkinson, head of the school of education at Swansea Institute, said: "Despite the publicity that claims it is difficult to find a job in Wales, the courses are still popular. We do warn recruits of the situation because that is only fair."
Latest figures show that, last January, the unemployment rate for those completing postgraduate training courses in Wales in the previous academic year was 4 per cent, compared with 1 per cent the year before.
Union leaders believe that all NQTs should be guaranteed a job to fill the gaps left by older colleagues retiring. Geraint Davies of the NASUWT, said: "We must not close the door too early on these recruits and rush into short-term answers. Let's use the surplus to plan for the future, tackle the shortage of Welsh-language primary teachers and reduce class sizes."
The Assembly Government has refused to comment before the review's findings are published, but a spokesman confirmed it was considering an interim assessment of targets for entry next year. "No decisions have been taken on intake targets yet and further work has to be undertaken before we are in a position to make announcements," he said.