RISING youth unemployment and the threat this poses to the economy is obviously looming large in the minds of politicians and business leaders. Hot on the heels of initiatives for paid internships, the government is now offering cash rewards for companies which take on an unemployed young person under the age of twenty-four.

The reasons for this are clear – not only is giving young people opportunities in the world of work needed to avoid widespread disillusionment, but that experience is also vital for the future health of the economy.

Driven by the belief that if Britain is to succeed we must create a new generation of skilled, market-savvy business people, last year Lord Davies of Abersoch, Sir Nigel Rudd and I set up the New Entrepreneurs Foundation. This is aimed at young people, offers paid work placements, and involves training in key business skills, but it is not a graduate recruitment scheme. It looks to nurture aspiring entrepreneurs and encourage them to start up their own ventures, but it is not Dragon’s Den or The Apprentice. We are what happens when the cameras stop rolling, the limo has driven off and the hard work really starts.

The New Entrepreneurs Foundation provides a unique 12-month programme for up to 30 aspiring entrepreneurs which combines four components:

● Practical on the job paid work experience in a dynamic growth company

● Training workshops from business schools, leading investors and corporate sponsors

● Seminars and networking events with prominent entrepreneurs and leaders in industry

● Coaching and mentoring.

The aim is to fast track the participants’ careers and equip them with not only the hard and soft skills to start, run and grow their own company, but also an invaluable network.

Each month, everyone gets together for training sessions, but it is not the training itself that is the glue of the programme, it is the contacts that are built and the ideas that are sparked. If you ask any of the “New Entrepreneurs” they will say that apart from working closely with the head of a growth company, it is their own peers who are proving the most inspiring, influential and useful.

Importantly, those on the programme come from a vast array of backgrounds: school leavers, fresh graduates, engineers, humanities graduates and many who have experience in business already.

We have our fair share of techie whiz kids and some have wanted to be entrepreneurs for as long as they could remember. But what is interesting is that we also have a number who started off their careers in the City but have decided that the corporate world is no longer for them.

It seems, therefore, that there is a growing recognition among business leaders and young people alike that in order to thrive the UK economy needs not only the traditional stalwarts of the financial services industry, but also the emergence of new start-ups and new entrepreneurs who can adapt to a changing world.

Oliver Pawle is the co-founder of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation and chairman of board services at Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann.