AN industry-backed scheme is creating hundreds of local jobs and apprentices through construction projects in Southampton worth more than £1 billion.

Construction firms are providing the employment opportunities under targets agreed with the council for each development in a bid to promote further economic growth in the city.

The council, which has been pioneering employment and skills plans in the county as part of major developments, has now been given a recognised status by the construction industry training board (CITB).

Eighteen employment and skills plans agreed in the past 18 months for £220m of developments in the city have already created 36 apprenticeships, more than 220 jobs, and more than 300 work placements for out-ofwork residents. The number of apprenticeships is set to reach 61 by the time the plans run out at the end of 2013.

Another nine projects, worth £90m, are set to bring a further 30 apprenticeships and 65 jobs next year.

And seven more developments in the pipeline, totalling £1.2 billion, are forecast to create 141 jobs and 114 apprenticeships.

There are now about 5,750 people on the dole in Southampton, nearly one-third aged under 25, with four people going for each job and the unemployment rate rising.

Under Southampton’s national academy for construction skills status, the number of jobs and apprenticeships required for major developments are now set under national benchmarks, with additional local targets tailored for poorer areas of the city or those with higher numbers of young people not in education, employment or training.

Links have been made with City College and local job centres to advertise the positions and pre-employment training is given to prepare t h e long-term unemployed to apply for the roles.

The guidelines have already been used to agree employment and skills plans with Kier for the new £15m Sea City Museum, as part of Crest Nicholson’s 1,600 homes development at Woolston riverside, the £15m estate regeneration project at Hinkler in Thornhill by Barratt Homes, and the council’s new City Depot and recycling park, which was built by Mansell Construction.

Council leader Councillor Royston Smith, pictured left, said that the status was already starting to reap benefits for local residents.

“Southampton is already one of the best performing cities for apprenticeship growth in the south-east and we want to make sure that growth keeps pace,” he said.

“The council will look to use the guidelines to promote training, apprenticeships and job opportunities across the city, as well as increasing educational opportunities for young people via vocational training.”

Roger Stone, sector strategy manager for CITB-Construction Skills in the south, said: “To emerge successfully from recession we need to ensure that we make the right investment in skills and training.

“This client-led approach does exactly that, promoting growth at a local level by giving help and guidance to councils and contractors – the people that can really impact on the local skills and employment landscape.”