A £350,000 initiative has been launched to help people struggling to find jobs in County Durham and Darlington get back into work.

The County Durham Community Foundation has launched its Learning Working Earning (LWE) scheme to provide £350,000 worth of grants to cover training costs, specialist equipment, transport and other barriers which are stopping people from joining work-related training schemes.

Grant recipients will be given the opportunity to take up an apprenticeship or work-based learning, where the employer has given a minimum of a year’s commitment to employ, support and train the individual.

The foundation is working closely with a number of different business mentors across Darlington and County Durham to identify and match the potential grant recipients with a workplace and help the grant application process.

Mark I’Anson, chairman of County Durham Community Foundation, said: “We are delighted to be launching this programme for County Durham in the current climate.

“The aim of the programme is to help people flourish in the workplace and, with a maximum of £5,000 available to eligible applicants over the next nine months, over 70 people will be helped back into the work place by this grant-making scheme, which is fantastic news.”

As well the individual grants, successful applicants will also benefit from mentoring services and newsletters, plus a celebration ceremony when they complete their time in the workplace funded under the grant.

LWE is funded by the Skills and Opportunities Fund and was made possible thanks to a £1m donation the foundation received last year.

The scheme was created after the foundation’s trustees held a fact-finding meeting with industry experts to identify the main barriers which were preventing Darlington and County Durham residents from finding jobs.

They discovered that a lack of readiness for employment and low aspirations amongst the younger population, as well as financial constraints, were the main problems.

There is no age limit on who can apply for a grant, but in order to be eligible, applicants must be unemployed and living in County Durham and have an offer of workplace training with a minimum of a one year placement.

To find out more about applying for a grant, contact the foundation on 0191-3786340 or visit www.cdcf.org.uk.