Bradford Council has unveiled its plans for a four-pronged £7.7 million programme to Get Bradford Working, creating more than 1,000 jobs, apprenticeships and work placements in a bid to tackle high levels of unemployment in the district.

The scheme, which would also see the creation of new “studio schools” to teach young people the skills that local employers want, is believed to be the largest job creation fund of its kind by any local authority in the country.

The ambitious plans are intended to create 390 new jobs, 400 new apprenticeships, and 300 work experience placements across Bradford over the next two years.

It would also encourage people to get better qualifications and improve the way skills are taught in the district’s schools, leading to 600 extra qualifications and the creation of five new training centres with 1,500 places linked to businesses.

Get Bradford Working is made up of four elements – a job creation fund, industrial centres of excellence, a routes into work scheme and a proposed apprenticeship training agency.

The largest portion of the funding, £4.5m – approved in the Council’s budget earlier this year – would be for the employment opportunities fund which would see an estimated 350 temporary jobs created over the next two years.

Participants would be taken on by employers on a 12-month contract, and would not only be earning a wage but would also gain qualifications and vital experience to enable them to break the cycle of long-term unemployment. It is hoped this temporary contract – whether full-time or part-time – would be a “bridge into work” and would lead to a sustainable job in the future.

The £1.8m industrial centres of excellence scheme would focus on key business growth sectors, such as healthcare technologies and advanced engineering, and make sure 14 to 19-year-olds are being taught the skills wanted by employers.

This could include setting up new studio schools, establishing a new academy or free school, or linking up with an existing school or training provider. This would also involve funding to develop a Bradford Enterprise Curriculum in schools to ensure a whole school approach to enterprise.

The £1.4m routes to work element is aimed at helping job seekers overcome barriers to work, such as mental health issues or disabilities. It would also look at supporting the over 50s find work, addressing the need for entry level English for speakers of other languages, and look as supporting graduates from higher education into employment with an internship in some of Bradford’s key business sectors.

Funding for the fourth strand of the scheme, the apprenticeship training agency, would be sourced from the Government. A bid for £1.5m has been submitted, and if approved, would tie in with the city centre growth zone the Council is to create, by working with businesses to offer up to 400 more apprenticeships over the next two years.

Councillor David Green, leader of the Council Leader, said: “This is the biggest employment scheme the Council has ever proposed and is the first of a number of proposals we are planning over the coming months to further support the local economy.

“It is clear something of this scale needs to be done to make the required impact on unemployment, particularly among young people, in the district.

“The closure of the Thomas Cook office only adds to the importance of taking action now. This programme has been planned for well over a year but could be of real help to Thomas Cook staff facing redundancy.

“The aim of Get Bradford Working is to make a difference in the short, medium and long term by creating new jobs, getting people access to more qualifications and making sure schools are teaching the skills our businesses are looking for.

“We are investing in creating the conditions for residents to help themselves to find work.

“If the Council does not act, there is a risk we will be stuck with the status quo of high unemployment for years to come.”

Trevor Higgins, BT Partnership director and chairman of the Bradford Employment and Skills Board, which has helped create the plans, said: “This is a major initiative which could make a huge difference to many people’s lives in the Bradford district.

“The programme has been drawn up with local businesses in mind and employers have rightly been put at the heart of this response to the high levels of unemployment we have in Bradford.”

Councillor Glen Miller, leader of the Conservative group on the Council, added: “We are in full support of the scheme itself, but I will be surprised if this rather large amount of money does equal more jobs, employment and people in training at the end.”

He said he feared most of the money would go on the administration of the various schemes and back office requirements and not benefit the unemployed in the numbers quoted.

He also criticised Coun Green over his lack of prior knowledge over the closure of the Thomas Cook base in Bradford city centre, resulting in the loss of 468 jobs, saying Labour was clearly not in contact with local businesses.

The £7.7m plan will be discussed by the Council’s executive next Friday and follows on from the Council’s Employment and Skills Strategy published last year. Senior councillors will be asked to approve the release of £1.8m from the authority’s corporate reserves to develop the Industrial Centres of Excellence.

Unemployment in the district is currently higher than the national average, at 5.9 per cent compared to four per cent in the UK. Youth unemployment (people aged 18 to 24) in Bradford is 10.7 per cent compared to 8.9 per cent in West Yorkshire and 7.9 per cent in UK.