A successful Darlington employability project which is helping local people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic get back into work is set to continue thanks to a four-figure grant from the North East’s biggest building society.

The Morrison Trust launched the programme in the autumn in response to a growing need among local people for help in overcoming the barriers they were facing finding new jobs.

Dozens of people have so far accessed help through the ‘Morrison Trust into Work’ scheme, with 16 of them already going on to find employment as a result.

The initial funding for the project, which came through the National Lottery Coronavirus Community Support Fund, was for a fixed period, meaning the scheme was coming to an end.

But now, thanks to a £4,500 grant from Newcastle Building Society, it will be able to continue through the summer while the Trust works towards putting it on a fully-sustainable financial footing.

And the Trust is encouraging any job-hunting Darlington residents who think they might benefit from being part of the project to get in touch as soon as possible.

The funding is being provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.

In the first half of 2021, the Society is directing its support to a range of projects tackling issues linked to employability, as part of helping its communities manage, mitigate and recover from the impacts of Covid-19.

Founded in 1995, the Morrison Trust works with partners and other organisations on a range of projects to help people across Darlington gain the skills they need to find work or training.

It operates five main schemes which each address different employability needs within the borough, including a care leavers job club, the Tees Valley Pathways scheme, which provides education, job and enterprise opportunities for people aged 15-29 who are not in education, employment or training, and Choices which supports people with employability and personal development skills.

The Trust also runs a conference and training centre which creates revenues for its other activities by providing flexible spaces for conferences, exhibitions, business meetings, training events and staff away days for up to 140 delegates.

Trust chief executive Sarah Bentley says: “The impact that the pandemic has had on many local people’s working lives has sadly been all too clear and the need for the help we provide is going to be around for a long time to come.

“The employability programme we set up to help address this issue has already been proven to be very effective and it’s been fantastic to see a growing number of our participants finding new jobs by utilising the knowledge they’ve gained with us.

“With our original funding running out, we’d have had no choice but to bring it to a close if Newcastle Building Society hadn’t now stepped in with their generous grant and it’s great that we’ll be able to continue helping local people get back into work.

“Having the flexibility to spend the money however we think will be most effective means we can take an individualised approach to meeting each person’s particular needs, which hopefully then gives us a greater chance of success.

“We’re open to hearing from more people around Darlington who think we could help them get ready to get back into work and our aim is to help as many people as possible achieve their employment goals in the coming months.”

Helena Kalandra, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Horsemarket branch in Darlington, adds: “The positive impact that the Trust has on the local community is extremely impressive and has become more important than ever over the last year.

“We’re very pleased to be able to help the Trust sustain its excellent work and to help local people into jobs and sustainable employment, addressing what is an immediate and very real issue for many people.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust.

The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.