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'AT THE START I thought this would just be a course - I thought they'd give you a certificate and it would be 'see you later', ' says Les Rainford.The 21-year-old signed up for the Fusion 21 scheme two years ago and is now permanently employed as a window fitter by local firm Cameron Industrial Services.

Mr Rainford and colleague James Abraham, 24, were out of work when they signed up for the course at the job centre, as part of the New Deal scheme.The arrangement appealed to them immediately.

'It's good because it gives you a trade, not just a job, 'Mr Abraham explains.This gave them confidence that the partnership was serious about getting them in to work.

Mr Rainford says: 'They were really positive, and said if we stuck to it they'd get us a job. Everyone in our intake got a placement at the end of the course. It's really good. I've already recommended it to other people.'

Cameron Industrial Services has been working for Knowsley Council for 20 years, and the majority of their work is for RSLs.

Contracts manager Arthur Ashburner assures me that there isn't room for passengers amongst his team.

'Working in the houses of clients you can't be as tolerant as perhaps you could on a site.You've got to be on your mettle because it's their house and they're watching you work.These lads are really good workers, they leave the places spotless.

'It's a great scheme. It gives the lads a chance they wouldn't have got otherwise, and helps with the skills dearth we're having at the moment.There aren't the same apprenticeships any more, people don't get the overall training you used to.'

Site agent Jim Sheppard thinks the hoops the trainees have to jump through to get on the course helps to sort out those who are serious about the scheme.A few aren't willing to commit to the job and have to be sacked, but most have stayed with the company.

'We try to give people a chance.We put the trainees on jobs with experienced staff.There are guys out there with a mind to teach, and they've turned the boys into first-class workers.'