THE Foundation for Jobs has been hailed as a pioneering scheme that is leading the way for other local authorities.
Speaking to an audience including the Right Reverend Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, at Teesside University’s Darlington campus, Councillor Chris McEwan said the Foundation was a shining example of how a community can pull together to make a difference to the future of its youth.
Coun McEwan, Darlington Council’s cabinet member for economy and regeneration, praised the hard work of all involved and said: “We are getting recognition, which isn’t a bad thing.
“It has been shortlisted for a local government award, but also other authorities in the Tees Valley, plus further afield, are starting to sit up and take notice of the model we are using.”
Bishop Welby admitted that when he was asked to be patron of the Foundation a year ago he was unsure of what it would achieve, but was thrilled that it has ended up at “the other end of the spectrum” in terms of his expectations.
He said: “One of the relative advantages of my job is that you get to meet all sorts of people where you can talk about this sort of thing and they will quite rapidly get bored of the fact that I talk so much about the Foundation for Jobs.
“But I do think, genuinely, this is a remarkable model and a pilot for what can be done.”
The Foundation has helped 102 local youths onto apprenticeship schemes and seen around 1,000 schoolchildren across Darlington engage with employers.
It has involved major businesses such as Cummins, Virgin and Orange as well as smaller employers such as Sherwoods car dealership which took on ten apprentices in 2012 and has pledged to do so every year.
One of the youngsters involved in the Foundation for Jobs scheme, 14-year-old Ashleigh Roles of St Aidan’s Academy, said that it has helped ease some of her fears about the future.
“When you see on the news all the time about there being no jobs, it's quite scary, but when you are part of this (the Foundation) you realise it isn’t as scary as it seems to get a job,” she said.
Cameron Straughan, a 14-year-old Hummersknott Academy pupil, added: “They let you do all these different projects and it has made me realise what I can do, what jobs I can take in the future and what interests me.”
Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo and a key figure in promoting the scheme said: “We can be really proud of what’s been achieved but it can’t stop here – we now have to build on the foundation we’ve laid.”