Seventeen apprentices are taking their first steps towards a new career after joining a North East charity.

The apprentices, who are all from County Durham, have taken roles in Horticulture, Curatorial, Events, Visitor Services, Engagement and Catering at Bishop Auckland-based, The Auckland Project.

Aged between 16 and 47, they include, Lucie Ann Hall, Rohan Haigh, Tori Cook, Will Jowett, Emma Milgate, Sally Hovington, David Raine, Louise Murphy, Aislinn Hart, Ross Shaw, Jane Ann Taylor, Francesca Brass, Emma Rowell, Danielle Wynn, Jayellen Dixon, Lucy Hendron and Leah Pull.

18-year-old Will Jowett has joined the Visitor Services team as an apprentice and hopes it will give him a head-start in his career.

Will, from Darlington, said: “I jumped at the opportunity. To be able to work towards a qualification and get paid for doing so is a dream.

“I’d like to gain further experience and a good head-start in working in a management setting.”

The new recruits have joined The Auckland Project as it works with the local community to develop a world-class visitor destination in Bishop Auckland.

Each apprentice will spend a year with The Auckland Project, 18 months for the horticultural apprentices, gaining the skills and qualifications to enable them to take the next step in their training or move on to progress further in their career.

New horticultural apprentice, David Raine first joined The Auckland Project as a volunteer with the Horticultural team 18 months ago.

David, 48, who had been unemployed for 20 years, says his new career has given him renewed hope.

“I was over the moon when I heard my application was successful, I feel like I have more of a future now, I’m optimistic and I think good will come out of this,” he said.

The latest round of recruitment takes the total number of apprentices at The Auckland Project to 25, with more recruits due to join by the end of the year.

Emma Milgate from Evenwood, applied for an apprenticeship with the Curatorial team, after completing a Stepping Stones to Employment course.

Led by County Durham Housing Group and The Auckland Project, the free course is designed to boost confidence, develop new skills and enhance employability

Emma had been unemployed for six months when she began the programme and is now mid-way through an Open University degree in History and Religion, she said: “Stepping Stones gave me a lot of confidence.

“My passion is history and my degree fits in nicely with the apprenticeship so I’m really looking forward to getting started now.”

The new apprenticeships have been co-ordinated by Auckland Academy, a partnership between Bishop Auckland College and The Auckland Project.

Of the 17 new positions, eight have been funded thanks to National Lottery players via the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), while the four horticultural apprenticeships and five catering apprenticeships have been funded by The Weston Bursaries, part of The Garfield Weston Foundation.

60 apprenticeships will be created over the next three years as The Auckland Project works to create a world-class visitor destination in Bishop Auckland.

Camilla Race, Head of Employability at The Auckland Project said: “We’re thrilled to have taken on the latest round of new recruits.

“This reinforces The Auckland Project’s ongoing commitment to offering improved training opportunities for the local community.”

To stay up to date with opportunities at The Auckland Project visit: aucklandcastle.org/work-with-us/