Chris Grayling, the employment minister, says he expects charities to play a "very active role" in one of the main strands of the government’s new £1bn Youth Contract.
The Youth Contract, announced in November and due to begin in April, was set up to provide at least 410,000 work placements for 18 to 24-year-olds in three years.
It includes a variety of measures to tackle youth unemployment, including £150m targeted specifically at getting the most vulnerable and disengaged 16 and 17-year-olds into work, education or apprenticeships.
Other measures include the provision of six-month ‘wage subsidies’ worth up to £2,275 each for employers who recruit 18 to 24-year-olds through the Work Programme, the Department for Work and Pensions’ main employment programme.
Grayling, the civil society minister Nick Hurd and the skills minister John Hayes joined representatives from 18 voluntary organisations at a round-table event in London yesterday to discuss the Youth Contract.
Few details about the scheme have been released since the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, announced it last year.
Grayling told Third Sector the Youth Contract was open to organisations of all sizes and sectors and he detected a willingness from charities to take part. "But particularly I think the sector will come forward and play a very active role in providing support for 16 and 17-year-olds," he said.
Graham Parry, director for youth, employment and skills at environmental regeneration charity Groundwork, which organised the event, agreed this area provided a "big opportunity" for voluntary organisations with specialist experience of helping young people find work.
Ralph Michell, director of strategy at chief executives body Acevo, who attended the meeting, said the opportunity to help 16 and 17-year-olds was "clearly third sector territory".