MORE than a quarter of 16 and 17-year-olds in Bradford could avoid claiming jobless benefits if a new project is successful.

The Jobcentre Plus scheme, which started yesterday, is being trialled in the district to further tackle youth unemployment and will mean extra support for 105 teenagers not in work or training.

Bradford is one of 30 areas running the 18-month initiative.

A specially-trained Jobcentre Plus work coach will work alongside Bradford Council and voluntary sector groups, such as Prospects and Barnardo's, to help the teenagers in areas including finding work experience, CV writing, pre-apprenticeship support or meeting employers to help them choose a career.

Areas running the new scheme, which was piloted in four areas earlier this year, were picked because of the numbers of 16 and 17 year olds not in education, employment or training - which is 382 in Bradford.

Jobcentre Plus relationship manager for Bradford, Sue Webster, said: "I don't think it's any higher here than in some areas and it's certainly not the highest, but it certainly will be up there."

The aim is to help all 105 teenagers into work, training or education.

"It's to prevent them making a claim at the age of 18 and potentially becoming long term unemployed if they do have large gaps in their CV. It's like an intervention," Miss Webster said.

"I think it's really interesting. It's different for the Department for Work and Pensions to work with somebody who's not on benefits. It's not a group of people we usually work with either in terms of them being so young.

"It's interesting to work with other partners as well to bring expertise together."

But despite the new territory, Miss Webster is hopeful the project will be a success.

"I can't see any reason why it wouldn't be. The labour market is more buoyant now and there are more opportunities. I think these sorts of things have been in the agenda for some time.

"I feel confident it will be successful."