The best long-term solution for the unemployment crisis is to improve education standards and strengthen vocational training, a survey of the public and human resources managers has found. There was also support for tougher restrictions on hiring foreign workers to protect the employment prospects of locals. Market research firm NFO WorldGroup polled 1,060 members of the public by phone last month and found 55 per cent felt the economic slump was responsible for the rise in the jobless rate, which stands at 7.7 per cent. More than one third blamed enterprises withdrawing from Hong Kong, while 27 per cent cited government policy failure and 19 per too many foreign workers. Respondents could give more than one response. As for a possible long-term solution, 23 per cent urged the government to improve educational standards and 21 per cent wanted more resources to go to vocational training. About 18 per cent favoured more restrictions on foreign workers. The survey also found that 30 per cent said university graduates should be advised to lower their expectations on pay and work conditions in a bid to get them in work once they had finished their courses. More than half of the respondents said retraining was the key to help unemployed people over 40 get back to work, while 30 per cent felt the answer was to increase employment opportunities. The market research firm also questioned 371 human resources managers. Of those, 61 per cent agreed the downturn had played a big part in worsening employment prospects. But 40 per cent said economic restructuring and a decrease in industry diversity was also an important factor. The managers said raising educational standards (33 per cent) and strengthening vocational training (27 per cent) were the best strategies to tackle unemployment. Chris Farquhar, deputy manager of NFO WorldGroup Hong Kong, said: 'While education has been a significant part of the public agenda for many years, our findings illustrated that in the view of both employers and the general public alike, the need to address this issue has never been more pressing in light of the current unemployment situation.' Meanwhile, more than 80 youngsters have been hired as $4,000-a-month IT teaching assistants under the Labour Department's one-year 'IT Seeds Programme'. The recruits were among 1,000 graduates of the department's Youth Pre-employment Training Programme who have been attending interviews yesterday and today to fill the 537 training vacancies offered by 357 schools.