BUSINESS leaders last night threw their support behind the Northern Echo’s Foundation for Jobs initiative.

The campaign, backed by Darlington Partnership, has been launched initially in Darlington with a view to being rolled out across the region.

John Orchard, director of Marchday, the owner of Lingfield Point in Darlington where 50 firms employing 1,850 people are based, said: “This is a fantastic initiative.

One of the things we have found by teaming up with Darlington College, which runs an apprenticeship scheme, is that some of our companies have a need for more new entrants.

“They had a problem getting people who were business ready, so we set up the partnership with the college so our companies could get business- ready candidates.”

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), said: “The Herculean effort of recent weeks to secure a future for Darlington FC is a clear demonstration of what can be accomplished when a town pulls together in the same direction.

“I have no doubt that the Darlington community, which has shown such commitment to its beloved football club, will be equally moved to support its younger generation in its effort to find work.

“The NECC is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with The Northern Echo to tackle the growing problem of youth unemployment. We will be encouraging all of our members in the town to do the same.”

The Nobia Group, which owns Darlington-based kitchen manufacturers Magnet, is one of the founder members of the Foundation and has committed to underwriting two intern and two apprentice appointments this year.

Adrian Fawlk, Nobia UK production director, said: “This initiative is vital in providing opportunities to young people, giving them the vital experience and qualifications needed to equip them for future long term employment.

“Nobia UK and, in particular, the Darlington Magnet site are delighted to be involved.”

The Student Loans Company, one of Darlington’s biggest employers, said it will bring its experience of improving the skills and experience of young people to the Foundation, and business support organisation The Entrepreneurs’ Forum confirmed its members, including some of the region’s most successful business owners, would help young people to develop their self-employment skills.

“Our members have a wealth of experience and expertise to share,” said Nicola Short, executive director.

“Many give their time to mentor emerging talent and to inspire the next generation.

This transfer of knowledgecan provide a foundation for future growth.”

Ted Salmon, regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We are fully supporting this plan by encouraging all our members to sign up to the pledge.

“Youth unemployment is one of the biggest issues we face and small businesses have a role to play in alleviating that.”