Barking and Dagenham are among the first locations in the country to be targeted by a new community programme to boost youth employability.

A partnership between St John Ambulance and banking firm Standard Chartered, the 'health citizens programme' will focus on people from low-income backgrounds who do not traditionally engage with volunteering and the opportunities it provides.

The programme aims to train almost 1,700 young adults aged 18 to 25 to build knowledge and skills - ranging from leadership and teamwork to growing confidence and aspirations - to increase employability, with a health and social care sector focus.

Barking and Dagenham Post: St John Ambulance chief executive Martin Houghton-Brown.St John Ambulance chief executive Martin Houghton-Brown. (Image: St John Ambulance)

The first phase of the programme, which was announced on Thursday, April 7, will focus on Barking, Dagenham and Hackney in London and three other locations nationally.

St John Ambulance chief executive Martin Houghton-Brown said: “We’ll be reaching out to young people in communities facing real economic disadvantage and working with them not only on life saving skills but on life skills, which could enable them to make a real difference in their community.

“We believe that by doing so, this will connect them to new economic opportunities.

“Understanding that they can make a difference will take them on the next step of their life journey and we’re thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Standard Chartered to make this happen.”

Volunteers from the health sector will play a key role in providing sector-related skills and knowledge.

Employees from Standard Chartered's London head office will also support the programme, mentoring and sharing employment insights to help prepare participants for the future of work.

Standard Chartered Bank’s Europe and Americas chief executive Torry Berntsen said: “We have a real opportunity to inspire, encourage and share our knowledge and expertise to help equip the next generation with skills for the future and to thrive.

“We are thrilled to be part of this much-needed programme and cannot wait to see how the participants progress over the next few months.”

The programme is funded by Standard Chartered as part of its global initiative to tackle economic inequality, Futuremakers.