A group of 16-24-year-olds from Stockton-On-Tees and Middlesbrough who had struggled to find work are celebrating after graduating from a new pre-employment training programme, Bright Lights, supported by Teesside and designed to help kick start a career in retail or hospitality.

The Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees, councillor Ken Dixon, presented 13 trainees with their BTEC Level 1 in Retail Knowledge, WorldHost Principles of Customer Service qualification and Level 1 CIEH Award in Health and Safety at a special celebration event at Middlesbrough Football Club, attended by centre staff, retailers, members from Thornaby Job Centre Plus, friends and family and representatives from British Land who own Teesside and fund the programme.

The trainees completed a free five-week programme that combined classroom learning with work placements at Teesside’s retailers, including Costa Coffee, Asda Living and Marks & Spencer, with the aim of providing unemployed young people in Stockton-On-Tees and Middlesbrough with the skills they need to build a career in customer service.

Teesside retailers and restaurants were so impressed with the trainees’ potential, many have been offered permanent or temporary roles at the centre.

Teesside is one of six shopping centres that was selected by British Land to pilot the new scheme, in partnership with The Source Skills Academy – a leading centre of excellence for retail and WorldHost customer service training, and one of only a select number of National Skills Academies for Retail.

Mike Clarke, Centre Manager at Teesside, said: “We’re extremely proud of our Bright Lights trainees, they’ve shown great dedication during their work placements.

“There is a lot of young talent in Stockton-On-Tees and Middlesbrough and we, together with our retailers and restaurants, are so happy to have been involved in the programme and offer some of our trainees’ jobs as we head into the busy Christmas period.”

Dianne Wainwright, Head of Operations at The Source Skills Academy, said: “Our partnership with Teesside through the Bright Lights pre-employment training programme has meant that young, unemployed people in Stockton-On-Tees and Middlesbrough have had the chance to receive free qualifications and hands-on work experience so that they’re able to start building a career in modern retail and hospitality.

“Our Bright Lights trainees worked really hard and we felt proud to see them be formally recognised for their achievements. We’re really grateful to Teesside retailers who helped make the programme possible and also the Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees for making the day even more memorable.”

The Bright Lights pre-employment training programme will run again in 2017. For more information about the programme and how to apply next year, contact brightlights@thesourceacademy.co.uk