BUSINESS leaders were last night told they could help young people to find work by pledging their support for the Foundation for Jobs initiative.

With UK youth unemployment at record levels, delegates from businesses and education organisations across Darlington were told that, in the borough alone, more than 1,000 young people aged under 25 were claiming jobseekers’ allowance.

It is a grim statistic that the Foundation for Jobs aims to tackle over the next year, by helping more than 1,000 young people to be better placed to secure work.

This includes creating at least 100 internships at firms in the borough and 100 additional apprenticeship places, as well as inspiring youngsters to develop entrepreneurial skills.

In addition it will provide 1,000 youngsters with the chance to establish formal links with local companies, providing vital skills for their CVs and a genuine insight into the world of work.

As he launched the foundation at Lingfield Point yesterday, the campaign’s patron, the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, said: “When businesses are in a crisis the big danger is they become short-term and put a hold on the things that, once we get through the crisis, mean we are able to flourish in the future.

“If survival is all we deal with, we will emerge from this, when the opportunities come, with a lack of capacity to take the opportunities.

“An effective business deals with a crisis but looks to the future.”

Darlington Borough Council’s leader Bill Dixon pledged that, where possible, the organisation would look at whether positions that became vacant could become potentially suit apprentices.

He said that it was important not to create a generation which had not only never worked but didn’t develop the skills to thrive in the workplace.

He told delegates “We would all do whatever we can to help our kids. There are kids in this town who don’t have people like us to even up the odds a bit, that is where we can play a huge role.”

He said he understood some businesses may find it contradictory to be looking at taking on interns and apprentices at the same time as job cuts were happening, but he did not believe this to be the case.

He said: “One is about what you and I need to do now to get through today, the crisis we have got, the other is that we need to have a vision for the future. Those people who don’t plan for the future are set to live in the past.

“We need to make sure that when we come out of the malaise we are in we have a workforce of people who have been to work, know the feeling of getting up on a Monday morning and understand holding down a job.”

Alasdair MacConachie, chairman of Darlington Partnership, is managing director of Vauxhall dealership Sherwoods which will take on at least ten apprentices this year.

He said: “One of the myths about apprenticeships and internships is that they cost money but if you maintain it, it doesn’t. Our apprentices contribute to the business after six weeks, working alongside the technicians and improving their productivity.”

The Darlington Partnership, which brings together private sector businesses and public organisations to work for the good of the borough, is co-ordinating the initiative Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said: “This is a hugely important issue and we have to do everything we can to guide young people into jobs.

“By working together, Darlington can be a national exemplar.

The campaign has my full support.”

Present at the launch event was 19-year-old Bob Jewers, who was one of the inspirations behind Foundation for Jobs when he unsuccessfully applied for more than 400 jobs in the past year.

Bob, who has now secured work with local photographic company Prints Charming after The Northern Echo highlighted his story, said: “There is always a perception that the younger generation are workshy, but this proves young people want to work, it is just getting past that initial barrier.”

Any business wanting to pledge support for Foundation for Jobs by creating school links, internships or apprenticeships is asked to contact Darlington Partnership director Seth Pearson at