A PIONEERING apprenticeship scheme is opening the door to highly skilled IT jobs for young people in the Leigh area.

Fourteen IP, a communications business which employs ore than 40 staff in offices in Leigh and Newton-le-Willows, is one of the first in the UK to offer the Hewlett-Packard Apprenticeship Scheme.

The first two candidates, Ben Wright and Stefan Leach, have already qualified and has been given a permanent job with the company while two more apprentices are currently undergoing training with plans to take on more early next year.

The company provides voice and data services to hotels, bars and restaurants around the world. It is backed by The North West Fund for Venture Capital, managed by Enterprise Ventures, and has grown rapidly since its was founded in 2011.

Neil Tolley, the Managing Director, said the IT industry was facing a skills shortage, with an additional 130,000 new entrants needed. He said: “The biggest challenge that we have as a company is recruiting the right people with right level of skills. The apprenticeship scheme is helping us to meet our requirements and giving young people a fantastic opportunity to gain a recognised qualification within the exciting, fast-paced IT sector.”

Will Clark of Enterprise Ventures added: “It is great to see that investment from The North West Fund is creating high-value jobs in the region and allowing young people to get a foot on the ladder.”

The North West Fund for Venture Capital is part of The North West Fund and is financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.