MINISTERIAL approval has been given to an innovative partnership that helped to fill 3,500 job vacancies created by Southam-pton's WestQuay shopping centre.

Employment minister Tessa Jowell gave her seal of approval to the WestQuay 2000 initiative when she visited the city's £295 million shopping centre.

She praised the partnership between developer Hammerson, Southampton City Council, Southampton City College and the Employment Service and said it was good to see such positive results.

"This is very good evidence of a partnership that has worked and that has delivered 3,500 jobs - with just under 2,000 vacancies being filled by people who were previously unemployed," she said.

Ms Jowell told the Daily Echo that training had been a key element in recruiting the staff for the WestQuay jobs and it would continue to play a crucial role.

"WestQuay is a development that provides high quality services and few people can walk into those jobs with no training at all. Up to 30 per cent of the people taken on had received training and hopefully that will continue in the future," she said.