University leavers who fail to find work at the end of their courses this summer could be offered modestly-paid internships under a new Government scheme, it has emerged.
Ministers have already signed up four top firms, including Barclays and Microsoft, to take on graduates who would instead swell the growing ranks of the unemployed.
John Denham, the Innovation, Universities and Skills Secretary, revealed the proposals in an interview with today's Daily Telegraph.
Plans for the national internship scheme come amid a worsening jobs market and increasingly challenging employment prospects for those leaving education.
In the same interview, Mr Denham declined to comment on suggestions that the Government could bring forward plans to raise the school-leaving age to 18.
It is intended that internships will at least improve participants' skills and experience and may in some cases lead to full-time work.
Lasting for up to three months, they will be paid at a rate only slightly higher than undergraduates' income from grants and loans, according to the Telegraph.
Mr Denham told the paper: "At the end, they will be more employable, and some of them will get jobs. Employers won't want to let good people go.
"These are the children of the baby-boomers. They will be a very big group. What do we do with them? We can't just leave people to fend for themselves."
A new requirement for youngsters to remain in education or training until they are 18 only currently applies to those aged 11 or under this year.
Asked about the prospect for the change to be brought in immediately, to avoid additional pressures on the jobs market, Mr Denham said: "Any steer would be unhelpful."
David Blanchflower, an economist and member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee said latest unemployment figures were "scary".
"We don't want these spells of unemployment to get long," he was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
"A spell of unemployment is bad when young and the longer it is, the worse it is.
"We want to do everything to prevent it becoming long-term unemployment."