Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Saturday, 1 August 2009 15:58 UK

Graduates to get gap-year money

Prince William in Chile
Prince William spent 10 weeks in Chile on a Raleigh International expedition

The government is to pay for graduates struggling to get a job to go on trips abroad, The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has confirmed.

It said the scheme will be launched with expedition company Raleigh International next week.

It will pay for 500 young people under the age of 24 to travel to places such as Costa Rica and India to take part in projects such as building schools.

It comes as graduates face an increasingly tough job market.

Forty-eight graduates are chasing every job on offer this year, according to a study by the Association of Graduate Recruiters.

The 10-week expeditions - to Borneo, India, Costa Rica and Nicaragua - will enable graduates to work on community and environmental volunteering projects in remote communities.

Higher Education Minister David Lammy said volunteering would help new graduates develop "the communication and leadership skills that are so highly valued in the workplace".

The government was giving Raleigh £500,000 to support graduates "who otherwise could not afford to go," he added.

Gap years should be funded by those who take them, not by a government initiative
J. Jenkins, Southampton

According to the Times, graduates must raise £1000, buy their own flights and cover the cost of vaccinations to be eligible.

Applicants will have to prove an overseas expedition would be beyond their means without the bursary.

Raleigh expeditions usually cost about £3,000 per person.

Prince William spent 10 weeks in Chile on a Raleigh International expedition as part of his gap year.

'Headline grabber'

Matthew Pickin, from Windsor, taught in Malawi during his gap year.

He said the scheme seemed "unfair" to those that had to pay the £3,000, and working to raise money to go abroad had "lead to greater satisfaction" when he was out there.

Struggling graduate James, from Leamington Spa, said the "sending 500 graduates on a jolly" was like a "smack in the face".

"I am out of work and I am currently funding my own re-training - currently heading for £3,000 - to make myself more employable and because the government will not help me."

Funding opportunities for skills development is surely better than the soul destroying experience of sitting at home watching Jeremy Kyle
Wes Streeting, NUS

As university leavers finish for the summer, the government has upped its campaign to try and help graduates find work during the recession.

On Wednesday, it announced that 2,000 internships are to be made available through a graduate talent pool website.

In addition, Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper invited businesses, councils and charities to bid for a share of £1bn to create 47,000 jobs for young unemployed people.

This will offer employment for six months, paid at the minimum wage.

The bleak outlook is also causing many graduates to simply stay in education.

National Union of Students president Wes Streeting said he welcomes the government's "creative thinking" that could give graduates opportunities to "gain valuable new skills".

"With youth employment reaching the one million mark, funding opportunities for skills development is surely better than the soul destroying experience of sitting at home, watching Jeremy Kyle, on the dole," he said.

But Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayer's Alliance, a group which campaigns for lower taxes, said the latest scheme was a "headline grabber" that would put a dent in taxpayers' pockets.

"The government needs to stop spending. It needs to focus on creating the right economic climate to allow entrepreneurs and business men to be able to hire new graduates," he said.

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