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Apprentices – you’re hired!

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Their first working day saw a warm welcome and site tour led by Keepmoat Homes partnership manager Richard Moore.

"You are joining us at a really exciting time," he told trainee site supervisor Simon Dorrance, 19; apprentice bricklayer Steven Barnbrook, 18; and apprentice joiner Jack James, 16, who lives in the North Priory area. "This is a landmark development for the area and I am sure that you will find it very rewarding to play your part in North Priory's regeneration."

The first 100 homes are being built in partnership by affordable housing group Bromford, Dudley Council and private developer Keepmoat Homes with nearly £5.6 million of funding from the Homes& Communities Agency.

Fifty-six homes will be let at affordable rent, seven through a special scheme for first-time buyers on lower incomes and 37 marketed for outright sale. Another 200 homes are planned for the second and third stages of redeveloping this former council estate.

The apprentices will be employed for up to two years - the first stage of the project will be completed in the summer of 2012 - with off-site training at Dudley College.

Richard said: "We hope that the experience Steven, Simon and Jack gain while working at North Priory will hold them in good stead for the future and, opportunities permitting, it would be great if they can continue their career with Keepmoat Homes on completion of their training."

Bromford neighbourhood investment manager Michele Campbell said: "The partners made a promise to create jobs for local people as part of the regeneration at North Priory and it's great to see young people getting this chance. This is the first part of a much wider initiative for Bromford. It's our remit to create training and employment opportunities for our customers and other people living in our neighbourhoods."

Councillor David Simms, Dudley Council's cabinet member for housing, libraries and adult learning, said: "From the offset the council has been keen to give local people training and employment opportunities, so it's great to see these new apprentices start onsite. I hope during their time on the project they will build the knowledge and skills to continue their careers in their chosen fields."

And the apprentices? "The qualifications and practical experience will be really useful - and so will the money," said Simon, who has started his role at North Priory while Steven and Jack will start their training at a Keepmoat Homes site in Wolverhampton before moving to North Priory in the new year.

Among those supporting the apprentices on their first day were Dudley College curriculum manager for construction Phil Hinton and his colleagues Sarah Johnson, Tracy Owen Jones and David Forrest.

Apprenticeship team leader Sarah Johnson described it as a "fantastic opportunity for the teenagers to gain practical experience and qualifications".

Her enthusiasm was shared by site manager Craig Russon, who will be in charge of the trio when they are at North Priory. "This is great news for the local area - and a great way of encouraging young people to go into construction. For the right people, with the right attitude, this is a really great job," he said after walking around with the recruits.