Young people who’ve laboured to get an education must be given the chance to put it to use – for all our sakes, says Ray O’Rourke

Extraordinary measures have been taken to address the banking collapse, and no doubt there will be more. But the radical steps taken to pump liquidity into the banking system do seem to be taking time to trickle down to businesses.

Ray O'Rourke

Although patience and persistence may eventually bear fruit, there is a much more pressing challenge facing responsible UK employers: the destruction of hope among a new generation looking to enter the workplace.

That, more than anything, is the most potent threat in the current crisis – and it is time to act now if we are to meet our obligations to future generations.

Can it be right that we place ever more onerous academic and financial hurdles in front of our brightest students, only to offer them a future devoid of opportunity?

The engineering and construction industries are certainly not immune from economic crises, but those of us who have ridden out more than one recession know that now is precisely the wrong moment to foreclose on new talent.

This industry is ready to be the government’s partner in rebuilding the economy

That is why we are reinforcing our commitment to graduates, apprentices and scholars through initiatives such as the Apprenticeship Plus scheme we have launched in partnership with ConstructionSkills.

Despite the obvious risks, I already detect a very welcome response from some of our partners in this industry: they recognise that confidence can only be rebuilt if we pause and think before cutting back on skills, training and opportunities for new entrants. It offers a model others may emulate.

New graduates emerging from our academic institutions will be anxiously asking “if not finance, where to now?”

The answer might just be a surge into a sector that is still open for business – and ready to make career commitments for the future. As the government searches for a focus in rebuilding the economy, this industry is willing and able to be its partner.