EQUIPPING young people with skills for the workplace is one of the cornerstones of the region's latest bid to take power from Whitehall, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Yesterday (FRIDAY), Tees Valley launched an ambitious plan to create thousands of jobs, apprenticeships and build a skilled workforce that can compete on the global stage.

Council chiefs have lodged a bid for Business Secretary Vince Cable to award it a City Deal - a flagship government policy that aims to devolve powers and funding.

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This region is competing with 20 rivals, including the likes of Reading, Preston, Ipswich and Staffordshire, with only about 12 expected to make the final shortlist.

Part of Tees Valley's plan will be to extend the successful Foundation for Jobs campaign which has sought to tackle the rising tide of youth unemployment blighting the region.

Since Foundation for Jobs was launched a year ago as a joint initiative by The Northern Echo, Darlington Borough Council and the Darlington Partnership of private and public sector organisations it has drawn praise from Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and North-East MP David Miliband.

The Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, soon to become Archbishop of Canterbury, has been patron of the campaign which has created 102 apprenticeships; found work placements for 105 and hosted events to prepare almost 1,000 Darlington school pupils for the workplace.

The campaign has now secured funding to continue for another two years.

"Foundation for Jobs is a brilliant initiative whose time has come," said Stephen Catchpole, managing director of Tees Valley Unlimited, which is leading the bid for a City Deal.

"It is so important that we have a skilled workforce to ensure that this region can compete in the future across industries such as advanced manufacturing, electronics and the chemical process sector.

"Foundation for Jobs can play a key role and if the Government approves our bid we are keen to see it extended across all five of the regions local authorities."

Ian Swales, Liberal Democrat MP for Redcar, urged the Government to include Tees Valley on the shortlist when it is announced this spring. "I am delighted to see Tees Valley Unlimited take this opportunity to bid for a City Deal to cover the Tees Valley," he said.

"This is an enormous opportunity for the area and with the right kind of co-operation and support I am sure that the area and our economy can go from strength to strength.

"I will be doing all I can from within Parliament to support this process and ensure that the work that our Local Enterprise Partnership has put into this is recognised within Government."