Computer giant Microsoft today launched a campaign to help 500,000 people into work by 2012 with the help of a former Government minister who has described the rising levels of unemployment as "frightening".
Microsoft said it would work with other organisations and local government to deliver its "ambitious" target through a combination of apprenticeships, training and a new job matching service.
Gordon Frazer, managing director of Microsoft UK said: "The last 12 months have been disastrous for many individuals, families and businesses throughout Britain. The Government has invested where it can but in reality there's only so much it can do. That's why I asked my team to look at ways we can make a difference as a business.
"Today represents the start of a nationwide programme, which I hope will have a real impact at grassroots level across the UK."
Former government trade minister Lord Digby Jones backed the announcement, adding: "Next week, we are expecting the number of people unemployed to top 2.5 million for the first time since 1995. That's a frightening prospect, but I also know that there are thousands of people who do not have the appropriate skills that businesses need in today's IT-led economy.
"Businesses still need these people, and so a significant part of this campaign will focus on making skills for business training vouchers available to people who want to give themselves an extra chance when going for interviews."
Chancellor Alistair Darling said he was "confident" that the economy would see growth grow but added that he remained cautious.
Speaking at an event in Downing Street to mark the payment of Child Trust Fund vouchers to seven-year-olds, he said: "I remain confident that our economy will see growth around the turn of the year and I think that over the last few months we have seen a number of encouraging signs here and in other countries.
"But I do say to people 'This is not the time to break out the flags'. We still have to be cautious, there is some way to go yet and the key thing, as I said yesterday is we have got to see this through...to make sure we get recovery firmly entrenched and then make sure we can plan for the future."
Mr Darling added: "As we come through the recession, as it becomes more firmly established then we have got to make choices. We have got to reduce the borrowing and I have set out a plan to cut borrowing by half over a four-year period at the time of the Budget, I will return to that.
"I don't take the Tory approach that using this crisis is a blanket excuse to cut spending.
I think you have got to choose your priorities, you have got to have an eye to the long term and particularly look at those things that will mark us out in future, for example, well-qualified people coming out of university or in this case, for example, this is a way of encouraging saving and encouraging saving in the future is absolutely essential."