Prince takes jobless under his umbrella

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The Prince of Wales won support from business, trade unions and politicians yesterday after announcing a major expansion of one of his charities to involve 25,000 young people in a volunteer scheme by the turn of the century.

Attacking the "terrible waste" of 600,000 under-25s being unemployed, the prince said business had a major role to play in helping those unlucky enough not to have a job.

He unveiled a "millennium crusade" involving a big expansion of the Prince's Trust Volunteers, set up six years ago to help youngsters develop skills while serving the community.

The Prince's target is to offer places every year to 18,000 unemployed youngsters and to 7,000 people in work by 1999.

Around 1,000 employers are taking part but Charles said he hoped that figure would double by the end of next year.

"I have long believed that business has a major role to play in developing not only your own young people but also some of those unlucky enough not to have a job or sufficiently alienated to have fallen into a rather frightening sub-culture," the Prince told the national conference of the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD) in Harrogate.

"Believe it or not, you can make a difference with this problem. Quite simply, it is just too big to be tackled without your help."

The TUC general secretary, John Monks, said the Prince deserved credit for putting the plight of jobless youngsters at the top of the agenda.

"Any scheme which taps the talent and enthusiasm of young people is to be welcomed and I hope employers will respond wholeheartedly."

Geoff Armstrong, director-general of the IPD, praised the volunteer programme and said 40 per cent of the unemployed youngsters taking part were finding jobs within three months.

"In terms of our own employees who get involved in the programmes, it is a very effective accelerated learning experience for them."

There was also backing from both sides of the political divide. Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, endorsed Charles's crusade and said the Prince's Trust had done a "wonderful job" in helping young people.Her Labour shadow, David Blunkett, said the Prince's targets fitted in with the goals of Labour's own Millennium Volunteers."