Almost 90,000 people have entered full-time education and training courses under the government's New Deal for the unemployed, according to latest figures, writes Phil Baty.
Employment minister Tessa Jowell revealed that some 81,200 long-term unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds had been given a place in full-time education or training, one of the four options offered by the scheme.
The Government Statistical Service figures show a further 6,800 have taken the full-time education option under the New Deal scheme for over-25s.
Ms Jowell, speaking at a seminar at Nuffield College, Oxford, hailed the New Deal as a major success. She revealed the government was just 5,000 short of its target to get 250,000 young, long-term unemployed into work, through the scheme as a whole, by the end of the current Parliament. She called on the rest of Europe to follow Britain's lead.
The four options for those unemployed for more than six months are: education and training, which 42 per cent of young people have chosen; subsidised employment, chosen by 20 per cent, or 38,200 people; voluntary sector work, chosen by 19 per cent or 36,400; and work with the Environment Task Force, chosen by another 19 per cent.
The education opportunities offered by the New Deal have been particularly popular among ethnic minorities. Figures show more than half the ethnic minority people in the scheme were in full-time education or training, compared to just 36 per cent of whites.
However, despite the recruitment boost, the Association of Colleges, which is preparing evidence for a House of Commons select committee hearing, said many principals involved in the deal have a variety of concerns.
Principals are concerned that variations in practice at local level, where employment service officials guide people into three options during a "gateway" period, are creating anomalies between regions, with some colleges taking very few students.
Previously, colleges have also been concerned that a strong emphasis on getting New Deal students into jobs means many do not benefit from full-length college courses.