A LOCAL enterprise partnership has marked the 500th job created from a skills programme.

Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) secured £7m of Government Regional Growth Fund (RGF) cash to set up its jobs and skills investment scheme.

The project aims to create 700 jobs by 2015.

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It offers businesses a subsidy of up to 50 per cent of the first year’s wages of an additional trainee, apprentice or graduate of any age.

Returnable Packaging Services (RPS), based in Maltby, near Stockton, has taken on five workers under the initiative, taking the scheme over the 500 mark.

The company, which specialises in recovering and re-using pallets and bulk containers, now employs 22 staff, and says the scheme could allow it to create more posts.

The milestone was hailed by Business Minister Michael Fallon, during a visit to the region.

He said: “The achievement of 500 jobs is testament to everyone involved in the project and a real success story.”

Thomas Hudson, RPS’ marketing and communications manager, added: “As an SME, this helps us to grow even further by employing new staff to meet increasing demand.

“It is just what SMEs need in the Tees Valley.

“The money saved by having half of the salaries of the new employees paid for in the first year will allow us to buy a new warehouse on site.

“That allows us to take on more new contracts needing internal storage and work stations, which we couldn’t have taken on before the funding.

“The new warehouse will in turn create more local jobs.”