By Marcus Leach

It is hoped that the government’s new Work Programme, due to be launched in June, will transform the lives of millions of people on long terms benefits.

Billed as the "most ambitious back to work programme this country has ever seen” by Chris Grayling, it is hoped it will bring to an end a persistent problem which has defeated previous administrations of all persuasions.

Despite optimism of the government, the picture looks very different when seen through the eyes of employers. A recent survey by the People 1st Training Company revealed that a quarter of businesses are struggling to find the right calibre of staff. Currently in the UK, 2.4 million people are out of work, yet some businesses are finding it hard to recruit staff.

“Businesses are recruiting again which should offer great encouragement to the labour market, however there is a worrying trend that although companies are hiring they are struggling to find the right calibre of staff," Carmen Watson, Managing Director of Pertemps Recruitment Partnership said.

"Hiring the right staff is vital to any organisation and failure to do this can cost a company dearly. My advice to companies who are looking to hire is to recruit staff who share your company’s values and culture.”

The recent economic downturn, public sector cut backs combined with mounting employment regulation, such as the Equality of Duty rules which came in recently, all make compliance a costly and complex maze for both public and private sector employers.

However, it’s not just when people are in work that the problems begin, recent figures announced by the Office of National Statistics stood youth unemployment at 963,000, with the jobless rate for young people remaining above 20%. Youth unemployment is at an all time high and many experts are attributing the worrying trend to an ever widening skills gap.

Last month, Chancellor George Osborne highlighted the skills gap as a real danger. In the Budget he said the UK was falling behind other developed countries in terms of having a skilled and flexible work force; a situation that would potentially undermine any future economic growth.

As a result the government has found extra funding for a further 40,000 apprenticeships for young people. Apprenticeships should prove an attractive solution to both employers and perspective employees as university fees increase. With fees increasing to up to £9,000 the option of university has become a less attractive option to many young people.

“The skills agenda raises much concern and there are a number of vital areas we need to look at," Watson continued.

"A critical area appears to be 16-24 years olds where we have seen an alarmingly high unemployment rate so far this year. We are clearly not offering this age group enough training and support and, in my opinion, many are not being offered training at all. This is an issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency and we need to be asking companies to seriously look at how we can support an age group that are failing to get jobs.”