The Stepping Stones to Employment project, led by County Durham Housing Group and Auckland Castle, is intended to grow confidence, improve skills and give a new focus to long-term unemployed residents.

An open day about the project on Thursday, 4 May at Auckland Youth and Community Centre in Woodhouse Close between 10am and 1pm, will tell people more about the three month course.

It is expected that 15 out of work people will benefit from the scheme by gaining essential skills in areas including customer service, IT, event organisation and food hygiene. Crucially it will also focus on confidence and interview skills, both identified as key barriers to entering employment after an extended period out of the jobs market. Everyone taking part in the project will get to attend an interview with Auckland Castle, to give real life experience of taking part in a face-to-face job interview.

Sean Robson, Community Training Coordinator at County Durham Housing Group, said: “Anyone who has spent a long time looking for a job will know that it can seriously knock your confidence. That’s why Stepping Stones places such an emphasis on growing confidence and real experience of interview techniques.

“We hope that the combination of skills training and renewed self-belief will give everyone on the course an advantage when they’re applying for jobs long into the future.

“It’s part of our role as one of the region’s largest landlords to support local people into work and improve the communities we operate in.”

The Stepping Stones course will run from 18 May to 27 July. Free childcare and transport are available to participants where needed.

Susan Graydon has already taken part in the program, she said: “Before Stepping Stones I was low on self-esteem and far away from the job market but with an increase in confidence and a big change in my employability skills through courses, I feel I can apply confidently for jobs and it has raised my aspirations”

The Stepping Stones to Employment project is funded by North East Procurement. A further two courses, helping another 30 long-term unemployed residents, are expected to follow.

Alison Tweddle from Auckland Castle said: “Stepping Stones to Employment has been specifically developed to help people feel confident and prepared enough to re-enter the workforce or find a job. Each session will be steered by those taking part, with a fun and informal approach to ensure they are accessible to all ages and backgrounds.”

More information about the open day is available from Sean Robson on 0191 349 7753