A NEW jobs drive is being launched after it was revealed that youth unemployment in the North West is getting worse.

Around 136,000 16-24 year-olds are classified as NEETS – people who are ‘not in education, employment or training’.

The Energy and Utility Skills Council has asked North West-based United Utilities to lead a drive across the region and get 1,000 NEETs into full-time work or education.

The water supplier will lead a group of 14 other utility firms including Scottish Power and National Grid on five pilot areas in Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, Liverpool and Manchester.

Sally Cabrini, human resources director of United Utilities, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this bold, ground-breaking partnership. It will bring local communities such as ours across the North West closer to their energy and utility employers.

“By working together as an industry, we can improve awareness of what we do and grow the pool of young talent in our sector.”

The company said youth unemployment in various towns around Lancashire and rural areas of Cumbria was higher than the UK average.

The partnership also focuses on providing opportunities for unemployed young people and those from disadvantaged communities or backgrounds.

The North West was chosen to pilot the programme because of the strong regional presence of both national and regional employers.

Steve Holliday, chairman of the energy and efficiency industrial partnership and National Grid chief executive, said: “This investment shows recognition of the challenges facing the UK’s energy and utilities sectors, and the vital role young people can play in solving them.

“The strength and scale of this partnership means it will build consensus within the industries on how to meet the demand for new, innovative power and energy solutions for the future.”

The North West has the third largest number of NEETs at 16.3 per cent of the whole of England with the West Midlands the highest at 17.1 per cent.

There are estimates that 50 per cent of current employees in the gas, water and renewables sectors are set to leave and 200,000 new recruits will be needed nationally by 2023.