Marks & Spencer has linked up with youth charity The Prince’s Trust to create 1,400 work placements for youngsters.

The initiative, called Make Your Mark, is aimed at 16 to 25-year-olds, and is designed to overcome the gap in skills and experience that can be a barrier to young people finding jobs. Youth unemployment at present stands at almost 1million.

Marks & Spencer chief executive Marc Bolland said: “Youth unemployment has become one of today’s key social issues and we want to lead the charge for businesses to do more to tackle it head on.

“That’s why we have set aside 1,400 new placements for young people in our stores and have called on our suppliers and other businesses to start engaging their communities and make their own commitments to youth opportunity.”

The Prince’s Trust will work with relevant organisations to recruit young people according to criteria agreed with M&S. There will then be an induction period, followed by a four-week unpaid period of work experience. Graduates of the scheme may find work with M&S immediately afterwards if there is a suitable vacancy available.

The scheme follows the retailer’s Marks & Start programme, which since 2004 has provided 1,100 young people with placements. Half of the participants found employment within three months.