Young jobseekers, who have been working with firefighters to boost their confidence, demonstrated their new skills by tackling a staged house fire.

The 11 youngsters, who have been on a three-week course, also manned a fire engine and cut a ‘casualty’ free from a car.

They have been working with firefighters from Chippenham and Corsham as part of a partnership between Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service and Job Centre Plus.

During the course they learned techniques firefighters use every day to rescue people, including how to put up ladders and operate breathing apparatus and hoses.

They have practised teamwork by learning how to rescue someone from the River Avon, and gained two qualifications, including first aid and health and safety qualifications.

Ian Jeary, head of service delivery at Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said the idea was to give the youngsters the confidence to get back into employment.

He said: “They change quite a lot in terms of the confidence they get to be able to cope under pressure and work as a team. All these life skills they really develop.

“It’s about realising they can do things, facing their fears about heights and water. They realise they have got it in themselves to overcome this and make a difference.

“What we’re hoping for is that it’s an opportunity for them to press the re-set button and realise there’s a lot of life opportunities. Hopefully, through this, we have unlocked their potential.”

During the partnership scheme, known as Salamander, a number of youngsters have taken part in similar courses across the county, and some get interviews and jobs afterwards.

Christopher Austin, 19, from Melksham, has been unemployed for more than a year and said he was very thankful to the Job Centre for giving him the opportunity to take part.

He said: “The experience has been amazing. I’ve never done anything like this before. My confidence and my motivation have shot up. It’s made me see new things, new opportunities and look at new courses I can do. I have been thinking about joining the fire service.”

Mother-in-law Shelly Chapman said: “I’ve really seen him come out of his shell. He comes in and tells you everything he’s done.

“Hopefully through this we will have unlocked their potential.”

To find more about the Salamander collaboration with Job Centre Plus contact Dawn Whiting on (01225) 756521 or e-mail dawn.whiting@wiltsfire.