Roger Statham, chief probation officer for Cleveland, called on the Government to back a pounds 25m scheme to train the 3,000 young people in the county who fail to get a job or continue in education each year.
Mr Statham, social policy and employment spokesman for the Association of Chief Officers of Probation, said: "Report after report has warned that as more youngsters stream out of school into an uncertain future with few jobs and little to do, many more may succumb to drugs and crime to keep away the boredom.
"With the help of the National Lottery, local industry, and local and central government, we could look to provide potentially thousands of modern-day apprenticeship places for youngsters who would otherwise be at greatest risk of joining the terrible cycle of crime."
Launching the Cleveland probation service's report, Mr Statham said that half of property crime in the county was committed by people under 21. "It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that a modern apprenticeship scheme could have a noticeable impact on crime rates," he said.
Cleveland probation service spokesman, Eddie Goncalves, said the scheme envisaged would be run by an independent organisation set up by local authorities and businesses and backed by police, the probation service and central government.
It would use as its model an existing, independent apprenticeship scheme which provides training for about 200 youngsters. Mr Goncalves said it was hoped the National Lottery could provide about pounds 2m in "pump priming" cash.
A spokesman for the National Heritage Department said such an apprenticeship scheme would qualify for consideration for lottery funds, although there was no guarantee it would be successful.Reuse content