The Nova Scotia government has come up with a program it hopes will encourage companies to hire recent college or university graduates for their first full-time jobs.

The province will pay up to 25 per cent of the salary of the new employee in the first year, as long as that new worker gets two years of experience at the company. It will pay up to 12.5 per cent of the salary in the second year.

The Graduate to Opportunity program aims to resolve the old problem of employers wanting to hire experienced workers, while graduates struggle to land that first job to gain experience.

"We all know the age old conundrum when it comes to experience. You need a job to get it but it's hard to get a job without it," said Michel Samson, the Minister of Economic and Rural Development.

Samson said in order to qualify, the employer must pay a minimum base salary of $30,000 annually.

"We've also put a limit that it has to be for businesses with 100 employees or less so that it's reaching out to small business, reaching out to non-profits and reaching out to other organizations that may need some financial assistance in getting graduates to work for them," he said.

Samson hopes those temporary jobs will turn into permanent jobs. Even if they don't, the young employees will have gained at least two years worth of work experience in the process, he said.

The province will provide $1.6 million in funding in the first year, $3.2 million in the second and $6.5 million in the third year of the program for a total of $11.3 million.

The program covers students who have graduated from any university in the last year, but they must live in Nova Scotia to be eligible.

"It's tough in this job market for any graduate to get any sort of experience so, naturally, any first position is going to be beneficial," said Ryan Day, a Dalhousie University student.

John Patterson, the president of Hurricane Industrial Equipment Inc. in Dartmouth, said getting money to offset the cost of in-house training for his forklift business makes hiring a graduate attractive.

"It's an added incentive to keep young people in the province, build a skilled workforce here and develop our skilled workforce so we can grow businesses Nova Scotia," he said.