CALLS have been made for more links between businesses and schools after a flagship government scheme to get people long term jobs was roundly criticised by a spending watchdog.
Figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions showed that of 1,760 people in Gloucester who had started the Work Programme since its launch last year, only 40 had stayed in employment for six months or more.
This represents just 2.3 per cent and fell short of the minimum target of 5.5 per cent.
The rest of the county fared little better. Data for the 14 months from June 2011 to July 2012, showed in the Cotswolds just 10 people out of 310 found a job for six months or more (0.8 per cent of those on the programme), in Cheltenham it was 20 out of 1,270 (1.6 per cent), Forest of Dean 20 out of 800 (2.5 per cent), Stroud 30 out of 700 (4.3 per cent), and Tewkesbury 10 out of 510 (2 per cent).
Cheltenham Business Partnership manager Martin Quantock said there maybe a disparity between the skills required and those that job hunters have. "I would argue that there needs to be more co-ordination of the business and education sectors, to get the right people for the right jobs," he said.
Nationally, figures showed only 3.6 per cent of those taking part – 31,000 out of nearly 900,000 – had found sustainable jobs. The scheme was launched in June 2011, at an estimated cost of between £3 billion and £5 billion over five years, with the aim of getting the long-term unemployed back into work.
Under the scheme, approved providers including firms and charities try to find work for claimants on a payment-by-results basis. Organisations can earn between £3,700 and £13,700 per person, depending how hard it is to help an individual, with an initial payment of between £400 and £600.
Following criticism from the Public Accounts Committee, the Government argued it is "early days" and the programme was succeeding in getting people off benefits.
Gloucester City Council business ambassador Fred Wood said the figures were "slightly disappointing".
"I would support schemes that would improve that figure," he said.
"I welcome anything that can be done in the business community to create real jobs."