A COATINGS firm which took on two apprentices to help them complete a vital Olympic contract has urged other companies to follow suit and help get more young people on the first rung of the career ladder.

County Durham firm Ionbond UK, which provides protective and decorative coatings for the medical, aerospace and automotive sectors, recruited technician apprentices Jake Warren from Consett and Callum Andrews from Benfieldside, both 17, to help design the coating for the 11,807 Olympic torches.

Now the firm is joining Durham County Council’s drive to get more businesses to take on apprentices by running its apprenticeship programme for the second year in a row.

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The council’s employability team is working with area action partnerships in Spennymoor, Chester-le-Street and Newton Aycliffe as well as the National Apprenticeships Service, which provides dedicated support for employers through a One Stop Shop.

They are providing funds for businesses with less than 250 employees who have not recruited an apprentice in the last year to create additional apprenticeship opportunities for County Durham-based 16 to 24-year-olds.

An incentive of £2,500 will be available to encourage small to medium sized businesses to create an apprenticeship opportunity for a minimum of 15 months.

Businesses targeted include manufacturing and engineering, energy, scientific and technical, tourism, transport and storage and health and social work, which have all been identified as wealth creating sectors.

Ionbond UK’s engineering support manager Shaun Warren said: “The apprenticeship programme has been absolutely great.

“It was really straight forward to apply and I would definitely recommend it to other small businesses.”

A total of 160 unemployed 16-to-24-year-olds started apprenticeships during the last year.

Councillor Neil Foster, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “This is another opportunity for businesses to give young people their much-needed first step to employment.

“We are delighted to help out by getting the scheme up and running again. I am sure it will be another big success.” If you are interested in accessing the apprenticeship programme funding, contact a member of the employability team on 03000-262009.