With the highest unemployment rate in the country, the North East can be a hard place to find work and young people without experience are finding the struggle particularly difficult. Yet there are signs of hope if you know where to look. Local recruitment and training experts Interserve Learning & Employment help unemployed people to find a new career, and hundreds of young people to become apprentices in retail, business, hospitality and other sectors, enabling them to ‘learn as they earn’.

One of Interserve Learning & Employment’s customers is Arbeia Diving School in South Shields, owned and managed by Rob and doing well. He needed a new member of staff for his shop and Interserve Learning & Employment manager Jo Norford quickly understood what Rob needed and advised he take on a young apprentice. Meanwhile, South Shields resident Antoni Hill found himself unemployed after various dead end jobs. He saw the Arbeia Apprenticeship position advertised and thought he’d give it a go. Little did he imagine how fast things would move and that he would soon be on his way to a new career. “I applied for the position and went for an interview in the morning, Jo took me to see Rob and by the end of the day I had the job!”

Rob knew about Apprenticeships but hadn’t been keen on the idea, yet Interserve Learning & Employment’s approach changed his mind. “You do business with an individual and Jo really understood what I needed, it feels like she is on my side. The Apprenticeship programme helped me find the right person for my organisation.” says Rob.

Jo sums up Interserve Learning & Employment’s customer focused ethos: “The needs of our customers and learners come first so we provide our services when and where they need them” says Jo, “if that means we have to go the extra mile that’s fine, it’s all part of the service”.

Since giving Antoni the job, Rob has not looked back: “Antoni is honest and hard-working and has progressed quickly with both the diving and the shop”. Rob was so impressed that he nominated Antoni for the South Tyneside business awards where he was a finalist out of hundreds. “I would rather have come first, being runner up is not good enough for me” says Antoni, half joking, “but the Apprenticeship is great plus I’m training towards the first stage of my professional diving instructor qualification and have even dived wrecks at sea, which is pretty cool”.

Rob and Antoni now make a great team thanks to the Apprenticeship programme and Interserve Learning & Employment Rob has seen his business grow and Antoni has gained a career that is more than a job, it is a lifestyle. Who knows, next year Antoni may come first at the awards!