Britain is urging companies to give temporary jobs to thousands of students finishing university courses this summer to counter a cutback in graduate recruitment due to an economic slowdown.
High street bank Barclays and U.S. software firm Microsoft have already agreed to offer up to three months' work to graduates, a spokeswoman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said on Saturday.
The programme, to be called the National Internship Scheme, follows the announcement last week of 140 million pounds of government funding for 35,000 extra apprenticeships next year.
The spokeswoman said planning for the graduate intern scheme was at an early stage and it was unclear whether the temporary jobs would attract any state funding beyond the government's role as a coordinator.
Universities Minister John Denham told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that graduates would be more employable at the end of their internship and some would get jobs.
"These are the children of the baby boomers. They will be a very big group. We can't just leave people to fend for themselves," he said.
Around 300,000 undergraduates are expected to complete their university studies this summer but they face a bleak jobs market as firms lay off staff to survive a fall in business.
Unemployment is growing fastest among 18 to 24 year olds, with nearly 600,000 out of work in the three months to October, a rise of 55,000, according to the latest official data.
The Guardian reported that students were being advised to apply for jobs now rather than wait till the summer.
"Graduate positions are almost full now when normally they would still have vacancies to fill right through to the summer," Bob Gilworth of Leeds University's careers service told the newspaper.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown will host a meeting on Monday with business leaders to discuss ways to stem the rise in unemployment, which has climbed to near 2 million.