TEES Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has reached his target of creating 500 new jobs for young people at businesses across the region through the Government’s Kickstart programme – but he is urging more firms to sign up to the scheme to create even more.

The Kickstart scheme is a £2billion fund aimed at creating hundreds of thousands of high-quality six-month work placements to those aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment.

Through the scheme the Government will pay the wage bill of a young person for six months along with employer National Insurance contributions and Mayor Houchen’s team is helping businesses to navigate the red tape and apply.

To date, 501 roles have been set up at 159 Tees Valley companies, with applications still open, and Mr Houchen is urging more businesses across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool to take advantage of the scheme and create opportunities, with his support, for young people.

He said: “I’m delighted that we have been able to reach this 500 job target, but that is by no means the end of the work. The scheme is still open and it is a fantastic opportunity to give a job to a young person at this crucial time.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a unprecedented impact on our businesses, and therefore it has become extremely difficult for young people, who would normally be looking to start out on their path to a successful career, to find work.

“But through this scheme, the government has agreed to pay their wage for the six month placement and we are making it easier for firms to apply, so it is an absolute no brainer for businesses to sign up and take advantage of the brilliant young talent we have in our region, despite the difficulties they currently face.

“Through apprenticeships, the hugely successful Routes to Work scheme, TeesValleyCareers.com and now by helping small businesses access Government’s £2billion Kickstart fund, my plan for jobs is giving everyone across the region, whatever their age or background, help towards a rewarding career right here in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”