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Published on Saturday 11 February 2012 09:55

COUNCIL apprentices took the streets to rid Sunderland city centre of a sticky problem.

As part of National Apprentice Week, members of the authority’s Streetscene team used a gum removal to sort out the menace.

As well as being trained in street cleaning, they are also taught aspects of horticulture, as well as waste removal.

Apprentices Sean Conlin, 17, Ryan Long, 19, and Les De-Cruz, 24, were those who went to High Street West for the cleaning session.

The last six months have seen 40 apprentices recruited to the Streetscene team.

The news comes with young unemployment in the North East and nationally at one of the highest level for years.

Coun Mel Speding, the council’s cabinet secretary and himself a former engineering apprentice, said: “Apprenticeships, with their full and thorough training, give many young people a real lift and start to their working lives.

“As with all apprenticeships, posts are about learning on the job, building up knowledge and skills and earning a qualification.

“Increasing the number of apprenticeships is line with the city council’s Economic Masterplan, which was launched in October 2010.”

The number of apprentices in Sunderland went up by more than 300 from 2008/9 to 2009/10, but bosses warned that for every position advertised there are seven applications.

Coun Speding added: “One aim of the Masterplan is raising skill levels, especially in children and young people, and helping retain them here as part of the city’s workforce.”

Financial support is on hand to help firms, including an incentive payment of up to £1,500 for employers with up to 50 employees through the recently announced Government Youth Contract.

Employers who want to find out more about apprentices can call Karen Alexander at Sunderland City Council on 305 1211 or Bryan Mayhew on 305 1208.

Twitter: @davidallison88

Paul Champion

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