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UNEMPLOYED construction workers are being given a helping hand back into work thanks to a free course.

East Durham College, in Peterlee, has teamed up with Jobcentre Plus, East Durham Homes and Wates Living Space to launch a new free programme at the college’s Business Academy.

It is the college’s first sector-based work academy for the construction industry and part of the Government’s Get Britain Working scheme.

The initiative comes after the Hartlepool Mail launched its Work in Progress campaign, which aims to highlight the plight of the unemployed and help get people into work.

Latest figures show there were 700 extra people out of work last month compared to the month before.

In Hartlepool, 4,633 people claimed Jobseekers Allowance, up from 4,451 in December and in the former Easington district, the figure was from 3,530 in December to 3,714 in January.

The new college initiative consists of three elements – pre-employment training, a work experience placement and a guaranteed job interview.

A group of 10 unemployed construction workers from east Durham are the first to get the opportunity to take part in the programme and started their work experience placement where they will be supervised by Wates Living Space and be involved in the delivery of Decent Homes works for East Durham Homes.

Wates Living Space project manager Les Thomson said: “We are very keen to work with the college and JobCentre Plus in developing training programmes.

“It’s very good to see such a high standard of people who are very enthusiastic about coming on the work placement.”

Michael Munkcaster, who secured a placement with Wates, said: “I think the programme is great, it’s excellent to get good experience of working for a first class contractor.

“Everyone here has been very helpful and hopefully I can secure a job or possibly go self-employed after it.”

Paul Robson, job seeker opportunities manager with JobCentre Plus, said: “Sector-based work academies are an excellent way for the local unemployed to gain training and work experience in a variety of industries.

“JobCentre Plus is working with a number of local firms on this initiative and we would encourage other businesses to take part.”

A college spokesman said: “The new course is a great way to help upskill people and equip them for work opportunities.

“The college is committed to helping to alleviate the jobless problem in east Durham and also supports the Hartlepool Mail for its Work in Progress campaign to highlight the area’s unemployment problem.”

For more information, or to apply for a place on the scheme, call (0191) 5188390 or visit your local JobCentre Plus.