TWO young IT enthusiasts have landed advanced apprenticeships as part of a new telephony contract awarded by Durham County Council.

Christopher Wells, 18, from Bishop Auckland and Luke Robinson, 22, from Peterlee are working towards an Edexcel BTEC Level 3 diploma in Professional Competence for IT and Telecoms Professionals.

The apprenticeships were negotiated by the council's Targeted Recruitment and Training initiative (TRT) following the adoption of the Charter by Cabinet members last year, which ensures that major contracts include some opportunities for training or work experience for young people from the local area.

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In this case, Azzurri Communications, the successful contractor in the procurement process, has agreed to support for the initiative and two apprentices have just taken up their posts.

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) has worked in partnership with the training provider, Newcastle College, and Azzurri during the recruitment and selection process of the apprentices with the standard of applicants being very high.

"I'm thrilled to be given this opportunity as I was unemployed and looking for work," said Luke. "Both Azzurri and Durham County Council have made me feel really welcome and I'm really enjoying it."

Councillor Neil Foster, cabinet member for regeneration and economic development said: "The TRT project is an important initiative to help secure opportunities like this for our young people in these difficult times. Last year the council developed the Charter as the first step

in securing a commitment from contractors and developers to consider people not in education, employment or training, as part of their workforce.

"Our procurement strategies and policies have taken this one step further through the inclusion of TRT within their contracting arrangements. Azzurri is one of many contractors pledging to provide such opportunities for employment and skills within the county. I am delighted with the company's support and wish both young men well in their careers."