Ministers are asking more firms to help with internships
Thousands of internships are to be made available to help school leavers and graduates find work during the recession.
A Graduate Talent Pool website will show about 2,000 internships at first with more promised within months.
There will also be work placements for non-graduates - including 10,000 places for 18 to 21-year-olds who have not been to university.
The moves have been welcomed by the National Union of Students.
Under the banner of Building Young Britain there is £40m of government funding for a network of mentors and job clubs.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "We are calling on businesses to take up these new opportunities, backed by new cash, and see what more they can do to."
In addition Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper said businesses, councils and charities could 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.
"We are determined not to lose a generation of talent because of the recession," she said.
"Many young people were denied the help they needed in the recessions of the 80s and 90s, ending up out of work for months and years. Too many never got a start in the jobs market.
"We are determined not to let that happen again."
The Backing Young Britain initiative is being introduced in England but labour laws mean the places on offer cannot be restricted to people from England.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson describes the campaign as not just a response to the recession but "an investment in the future to build a stronger Britain".
Last week a critical report on social mobility delivered to the prime minister by former minister Alan Milburn accused better off families of "hoarding opportunities".
It said they gave their children advantages by, for example, using their connections to obtain internships and work placements.
The Graduate Talent Pool was welcomed by National Union of Students president Wes Streeting.
He said recent graduates were facing the worst employment circumstances for a generation, and the internships plan would help to develop their skills and build up their experience.
"Offering access to internships and work opportunities is infinitely preferable to the permanent economic and social scars of long-term unemployment.
"NUS is in active discussions with a wide range of employers to encourage them to further expand the range of opportunities available to students and graduates."
But the Conservatives have said that ministers are in denial about the true scale of unemployment.