Durham County Council has just supported its 1000th apprentice, following the launch of the innovative County Durham Apprenticeship Programme in November 2011.

The scheme was set up to assist in the creation of apprenticeship opportunities for unemployed residents who live in County Durham and who are aged from 16 to 24 years.

As well as providing a brighter future for young people the scheme also highlights the benefits apprentices bring to employers.

And this month, 18-year-old Ryan Lumley from Chester-le-Street became the 1000th young person to benefit from the scheme when he secured an apprenticeship with local joiner Phil Mullen.

Ryan is also studying at New College Durham alongside his apprenticeship and said: “It is great to have the opportunity to get some hands on experience, really working on the job, while I’m studying. I’ve learned so much by actually doing the work I’m training for and I love being part of Phil’s team.”

Phil added: “It’s been great working with the council on their apprenticeships programme and the support they have offered is really helpful. We’re delighted to be giving young people like Ryan the chance to put their training into practice and from our point of view it is great to be able to shape young workers early on and get them skilled-up in a way that will benefit our industry in the long run.”

The council’s apprenticeship programme provides an incentive to employers (from Small to Medium Enterprises or Social Enterprises) who are considering recruiting an apprentice by offering financial support as well as advice and guidance. It also connects employers with the national programme of support (AGE – Apprenticeship Grant for Employers), the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and local training providers for further support.

Leader of Durham County Council, Cllr Simon Henig, said: “It is fantastic to see that 1000 young people have now benefitted from our scheme and that more will continue to do so. We are committed to improving the prospects of the county’s young people so they have a bright future. The programme is just one of the ways we are working to provide access to training for our young people as well as giving local companies the opportunity to benefit from having apprenticeships on board.

“By offering this unique support network, the project is helping us to tackle the high levels of youth unemployment in the area, while raising the skills and aspirations of our young people.”

Since launching the programme of support, the council has worked with over 480 employers, as well as colleges and training providers to promote the benefits of the apprenticeship route and to match the various opportunities with relevant individuals and employers.

A number of Area Action Partnerships have also been involved, providing funding contributions and helping to promote the opportunities to local residents.

Durham County Council portfolio holder for regeneration and economic development, Cllr Neil Foster, said: “The feedback we have received from employers and apprentices has been very positive. It is pleasing to be able to put this scheme in the spotlight, which has found places for 1000 young people from our county; it will help improve their skills and experience, improving their chances of securing long-term work in the future.”