AN innovative partnership between Tyne and Wear Fire Service and Prince's Trust volunteers is bringing huge benefits to communities across Wearside.

The trust is helping young unemployed and employed 16 to 25-year-olds to develop confidence, motivation and skills through teamwork in the community. The fire service approached it to run the volunteers programme from its fire community safety centre at the fire station in Railway Row, Sunderland.

Team leader and Sub-Officer Billy Carr and assistant team leader Dave Barnes have put firefighting duties aside to deliver the programme to youngsters on Wearside. "Everything the fire service does is based on teamwork, and these young volunteers are benefiting from the same team-building techniques," said Sub-Officer Carr.

During the 12-week course, volunteers train to become qualified first-aiders and complete a residential outdoor pursuits course in the Lake District. They are also taught job application and interview techniques, and work in the community.

At the end of their time the young people get recognised qualifications marking their achievements.

Nationally, 70 per cent of jobless participants on the scheme have moved on to jobs, full-time education or training.