A NORTH-EAST apprenticeship and training provider has expanded to tackle the skills shortage in the construction industry.

The Nordic Focus Training Group has opened a new academy on Chesnut Street, Darlington, which will offer a number of construction apprenticeships, as well as corporate training.

The new training academy will work with employers in the region to match job vacancies with suitable apprentices in a bid to tackle a national skills shortage in the industry.

Ray Brown, the group’s sales director, said: “The North-East has the highest proportion of unemployed young people and we wanted to help them to fill that gap.

“We find out where the opportunities are first, and then find the young people.

“It is a very exciting time in the construction industry – it has had a downturn but it is now on the up.”

The new academy was officially opened by Darlington mayor, Councillor Gerald Lee, who said that the growing demand for skilled tradespeople was essential to help the country out of recession.

He said: “It seems there is a growing acceptance that not all young students are academically adept and the drive of a few years ago to steer most of them through the cloisters of university life is not the answer for many young people.

“I am delighted that here in Darlington we have a company, Nordic Focus Training Group, who is tackling these two problems head on by providing an array of courses and qualifications, as well as bespoke training and apprenticeships all designed to a company’s need and that of their trainees.

“This approach will help provide employment opportunities and a future for our young people and increase our trained workforce needed to take us forward.”

The move follows a collaboration between Nordic Pioneer and Focus Training and Development, which have collectively trained more than 40,000 people, and currently have more than 400 apprentices in training.

Lewis Gray, 19, and Charlie Iveson, 18, are two months into their 18-month apprenticeship with Devlin Walker Developments – a family-run property development business in Stockton.

Lindsay Walker, project manager said: “There are three of us in the business and we all got into the trade by doing apprenticeships so we know how useful they can be.

“The apprentices are brilliant and the group helped us to get what we needed.”

*The Northern Echo's Foundation for Jobs, which tackles unemployment by helping young people develop their skills, has worked with thousands of young people in the borough of Darlington, and created hundreds of apprenticeships. It is led by The Northern Echo, along with Darlington Borough Council, and a partnership of public and private sector organisations.