A SEARCH has been launched to find 130 young people to take up apprenticeships.
Durham County Council hopes to set the over-19s on the first rung of the career ladder and signalled the start of an initiative to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to take on unemployed people for a minimum of two years.
The County Durham Apprenticeship Programme is funded by the council and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT).
Its first focus will be to create additional opportunities within enterprises employing fewer than 50 staff.
It will also target opportunities within social enterprises or the community voluntary sector, which is where the funding from the CRT is being targeted.
Coun Neil Foster, cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: “This is a really important initiative.
“Not only are we telling our young unemployed residents that we can help, but we are supporting small and medium-sized businesses at the same time.
“It is particularly pleasing that we have been able to do this despite the challenging financial climate and I feel sure this scheme will prove life-changing for the many people it will touch.”
The programme depends on a two-year partnership commitment between the council and the small or medium-sized enterprises.
The agreement covers a range of terms, such as wages, hours, management fees, training support and access to business advice.
Peter McNestry, chairman of the CRT, said: “The trust recognises the value of apprenticeships in tackling rising youth unemployment.
“This programme demonstrates how the CRT is supporting social enterprise and investing in opportunities for young people in our former coalfield communities.”
The council’s employability team will co-ordinate and deliver the programme in partnership with National Apprenticeship Service, Job Centre Plus, New College Durham and Derwentside Training.
Businesses who would like information on the scheme can call 03000 262 012.