Programs to help young people move from school into the workforce will stop at the end of the year because of federal government funding cuts.
Ian Palmer, CEO of Schools Industry Partnership, which provides services to young people in the Mountains, the Hawkesbury and Penrith areas, said he was devastated at the news from the recent budget.
"We thought there might be cuts but not a total obliteration," he said.
Programs which will stop because there are no funds include Youth Connections, which helps students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school, and the Work Placements program which in 15 years has sent 65,000 students to get first-hand experience of workplaces.
Also doomed are two major resources - the national careers information website, myfuture.edu.au, used extensively by students to find out about how to qualify for various jobs, and the Job Guide Directory of Australian jobs, training and career paths.
Mr Palmer said the programs, particularly work placements, had been successful.
"The outcomes of this program have been absolutely terrific. Twenty-four per cent get offered a job while on their work placement and 69 per cent say it helped them get a job," he said.
Mr Palmer said he had worked with young people from the days of Bob Hawke's prime ministership, through that of Paul Keating, John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
"And this is the first government that has said, nope, we're not giving any money.
"Instead of those programs that help prevent unemployment, it's all focused on making them work for the dole or cutting off the dole," he said. "Instead of a balance, they have cut off all the preventative stuff and the only things that are being funded are the harsher welfare stuff."
Mr Palmer said the programs had been devised to overcome skills shortages, which employers had complained about in the past.
"I thought we had learnt that lesson decades ago. We will go back to where it was in the 70s or 80s and youth unemployment will double or triple."
Leura landscaper Shannon Decker said he had been taking students for 12 years in his company, Now & Zen.
"Work needs to be hands-on," he said. "They need to see it and do it to understand it. I'm really sad to hear that the money is going to be cut."
The Federal Member for Macquarie, Louise Markus, said the partnership brokers program, which Mr Palmer heads in this region, was not renewed by the previous Labor government, which had made no allowances for funding beyond the end of this year.
She believed the new work for the dole scheme would "help young job seekers improve their chances of getting a job, while giving something back to the community that supports them".
"It is also important to note that since the introduction of the myfuture website and Job Guide over a decade ago, there has been a dramatic expansion of career resources available to schools students and leavers. The government will continue to maintain resources such as the Job Outlook website at www.joboutlook.gov.au that allows people to search occupations and labour market information."
ALP spokeswoman for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, said the cuts will affect schools across the Mountains.
"There is real hypocrisy from the Abbott government about partnerships between employers and young people.
"In New York, Tony Abbott praised a schools model because it brought students and employers closer, yet back in Australia he destroys the very programs that have been successfully creating these links," she said.