AN INITIATIVE tackling youth unemployment in the region is set to be given royal approval.

The Duke of York, Prince Andrew, will visit the North-East on Friday, March 7 to hear about the achievements of a scheme that has helped thousands of youngsters in the area.

The Darlington Foundation for Jobs has benefited more than 2,500 people since its launch two years ago.

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The award-winning initiative – led by The Northern Echo, Darlington Borough Council and a partnership of public and private sector organisations – works to tackle unemployment by raising the skill levels of youngsters aged eight to 24.

The work undertaken by the Foundation for Jobs is in line with HRH Prince Andrew’s bid to boost the economic success of the UK by supporting three core areas – education and skills, science and engineering and entrepreneurship and SMEs (small and medium enterprises).

Since its inception, the scheme has helped to create more than 230 apprenticeships and 200 internships and has worked to simplify recruitment and training processes – allowing some firms to take on young trainees for the first time.

As part of the initiative, industry professionals have worked with thousands of school children, taking part in activity sessions designed to increase understanding of work place skills and the sectors expected to create more North-East jobs in the future.

HRH Prince Andrew will find out more about the impact of the scheme on young people during his visit to Darlington, arranged by The Northern Echo.

The Duke will spend time visiting a number of projects linked to the Foundation for Jobs and meeting youngsters who have been helped by the scheme.

He will have the opportunity to operate a £4m underwater robot at the core of a unique subsea training centre based at Darlington College and developed through a partnership between the college and engineering company Modus.

Owen McAteer, Foundation for Jobs coordinator, said: “We are delighted and honoured that the Duke of York has accepted our invitation to visit Foundation for Jobs and see for himself the work that is being carried out to tackle youth unemployment and to raise the number of opportunities for young people.

“The Duke is working to boost the effectiveness of the UK and it is pleasing that his aims closely match our own.

“The way that businesses, schools, the public sector and higher education have worked together to support Foundation for Jobs and help more than 2,600 young people since its launch has exceeded all our expectations and I believe it shows that here in Darlington we know the importance of creating opportunities for the young people in the borough.”

While in the town, he will also start a hovercraft race after meeting secondary school and A-Level pupils working to develop their engineering skills by building a working hovercraft capable of carrying a pilot.

Social enterprise Bike Stop, which recycles old bicycles, will give the royal visitor chance to meet a young apprentice who has been helped by Foundation for Jobs.