A VAPE firm is welcoming 15 young people onto its staff as part of a national youth employment scheme.

Blackburn-based Dinner Lady says that it will be welcoming the first of 16 to 24 year olds into its Shadsworth Industrial Estate headquarters imminently.

They will be joining as part of the government's Kickstart scheme, which aims to support youngsters who are claiming universal credit or are at risk of long-term unemployment due to the pandemic.

GM group chief executive Mohammed Patel, who grew up in Little Harwood, Blackburn, said: "As a teenager, there weren’t many doors open to me, and I understand how easy it can be to become disenfranchised as a young person, to not see what opportunities may be out there.

He added: “I sincerely hope we can find a new generation of talent and I look forward to welcoming local young people into the Dinner Lady Family, to inspire the next generation of Blackburn entrepreneurs.”

The £2 billion Kickstart scheme was announced by the government last year to support young people, aged 16 to 24, who have been amongst the hardest hit by the economic impact the coronavirus crisis.

In Dinner Lady's case, the young people will work in departments covering sales, marketing, compliance, customer service and e-commerce during the six-month scheme.

The Blackburn company says that it hopes to be able to offer long-term training and employment opportunities to some of the candidates.

Head of HR and general manager Gemma Lee said: "We’re really excited to welcome some new talents into the business, to support their future employability, to develop new skills and give vital, paid work experience at this time.

“Like many companies, we have faced challenges during the past 12 months, and we have seen friends and loved ones struggle due to the impact Covid-19 has had on all our lives in so many ways.

“While we can’t guarantee employment at the end of the scheme, for the right candidates there’s no question we will help them stay part of the Dinner Lady family, whether as apprentices or with a permanent contract, and to forge a successful career.”