A CHARITY tackling the blight of youth unemployment in the region has secured a contract with a leading business, and hosted a visit from a senior local Government official. 

The Employability Trust, which supports young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs) by offering practical experience and work-based training to help them get a foot on the career ladder, hosted the visit of Sue Houston, the North-East's representative from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Mrs Houston was taken on a tour of the Trust's Peterlee centre to see for herself the work being done by the team, which is headed up by chief executive Bill Marley.

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Her visit coincided with The Employability Trust securing a contract with another Peterlee company, electrical test equipment specialist Seaward Electronic, which has taken two members of the team, Melissa Hammond and Alex Errington, on short-term paid contracts.

Mr Marley said: "The timing of Sue's visit coincided perfectly with the new contract we've just been awarded with Seaward Electronic which has resulted in Melissa and Alex being taken on short term contracts to support the company with sub-assembly work.

"This is an excellent opportunity for them and demonstrates perfectly everything the trust is about, which is to equip young people with the skills they need to secure employment with local businesses.

"It was also a great opportunity for me to tell Sue all about the excellent work we've been doing in the last few months which has included supporting 85 per cent of the people we've taken on work experience placements into secure full time employment with companies in the area."

Mrs Houston said: "Through my role with BIS Local team I'd heard many good things about the work The Employability Trust is undertaking to tackle youth unemployment in the East Durham area so I was very keen to see for myself exactly what they're doing and speak to some of the young people who are benefitting from their support.

"I was very impressed and enthused by the passion of not only Bill but the whole team. The people employed there genuinely want to learn and work and I have the upmost respect for everything Bill has achieved.

"Youth unemployment is a massive problem not just in the North East but nationally and we need to be doing everything we can to tackle, so the importance of organisations like The Employability Trust cannot be underestimated."

During the past 11 months, The Employability Trust, which is based on the South West Industrial Estate in Peterlee, gave 19 young people work experience placements and of those, 16 have gone on to find secure employment with businesses in the local area.

The Employability Trust also directly employed 61 people ages 16 and over on short term contracts while a third of its work force is apprentices who have been brought out of the benefits system and given the opportunity to earn while they learn.

Ian West, Operations Director of Seaward Electronic, said: "Melissa and Alex are doing a great job. They've demonstrated real potential and their enthusiasm to learn is admirable. They've both got promising careers ahead of them."