By Daniel Hunter

Jobseekers have taken part in nearly half a million voluntary employer-led placements or work experience through Jobcentre Plus since January 2011, according to new government figures.

More than 70% of the 469,000 placements were taken by young people using the schemes to increase their skills and experience to help them move into work, as recent figures show the number of young people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance is now at its lowest since the 1970s.

More than 80% of young people felt they were more attractive to employers following work experience or an employer-led placement. Around 75% of work experience participants said it had provided them with new skills and increased their confidence. And 42% were offered a job at the end of their placement — around two thirds of people who got a job with a different employer said the sector-based work academies helped them get the job.

More than 24,000 of the placements were taken up by people over 50 looking for a career change, and 84,000 were taken up by people with disabilities.

Employment Minister Esther McVey said: "The young people I meet tell me that they need work experience to get a job — but they need a job to get work experience. That’s why we hugely expanded our schemes, which have now benefitted nearly half a million people, helping them to get their foot on the career ladder.

"With youth unemployment falling by a fifth in the last year, we are making sure this country’s young people get the best possible start to their working lives, giving them the opportunity to build a career and perhaps go on to be the employers of the future.

"Record numbers of people are now in work — with the majority of the rise in the last year being full-time jobs — and they are feeling more secure about having a steady income. We are working closely with employers across the country to ensure jobseekers have the skills and experience that businesses need."