A new drive by Surrey County Council has been unveiled, aiming to create 170 apprenticeships.

The county council has said it will use its purchasing power to create the posts across Surrey.

The council said it is asking firms to pledge to fill apprentice places as part of their bids for contracts to provide council services.

The council, which stated that it negotiates tens of millions of pounds' worth of contracts each year, said it is also encouraging key contractors to look to their chain of suppliers for apprenticeship opportunities.

Surrey's procurement team has set the apprentice goal to support the council’s efforts to stimulate economic growth.

The efforts have recently been applauded as seeing the county's total of young people registered as not in education, employment or training – the so-called NEETs - hit a national low Earlier this year, figures from the Department of Education (DfE) showed that only 1.8% of people aged 16 to 19 in the county were not studying or working.

The total meant that Surrey has the fewest young people classed as NEETs in the country, alongside Harrow and Rutland.

Surrey's figure is far lower than the national NEETs average of 5.3%.

The county council has over the past two years prioritised the local NEETs total through measures including incentivising businesses to hire 500 apprentices in just ten months.

The council also created a chain of county-wide centres to equip young people with basic skills, and provide extra support in youth centres for those at risk of becoming NEET. The latest move to create 170 apprenticeships follows the council's pledge to create 500 roles by next April, having successfully filled nearly 540 places in ten months, and having made savings of almost £110 million in four years through striking better, more shrewd deals.

Denise Le Gal, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for business services, said: “This initiative means we can continue providing taxpayers with the best possible deal now, while also helping to train the next generation of our workforce.

“Apprenticeships give young people the leg up in their careers that they need at a difficult time, and provide businesses with the skilled staff they require to thrive and help the economy grow.”