A NORTH Yorkshire town hit by the loss of 600 jobs is welcoming news of 50 new positions as BT expands its Northallerton distribution centre.

The market town was dealt a double blow of public sector job cuts with the closure of Northallerton Prison and the Rural Payments Agency.

However as two major employers leave Northallerton, BT has announced it is increasing its workforce in the town to 150, with further recruitment planned as the telecommunicaitons giant prepares to introduce a traineeship programme before the summer.

The latest boost to the workforce of 50 full time warehouse staff makes the North Yorkshire depot, which started life as a carpet factory, BT's second largest UK supply chain facility, responsible for processing and distributing more than 22,000 electronic devices per day.

Nick Hale, managing director of BT Supply Chain, said: "News of jobs and expansion is always good news, but in a town which has seen its fair share of job losses in recent times it is a particularly welcome announcement.

"The majority of these positions have been filled by local people, which is testament to the quality of the local workforce and a vital boost for the town's economy.

"These are exciting times to work in BT Supply Chain.

"The roll-out of high-speed fibre broadband throughout North Yorkshire and across the UK is creating unprecedented demand for the electronic devices that enable people to access this new technology.

"We are confident that this demand will enable us to maintain and grow our presence in Northallerton during the next few years."

The traineeship programme, aimed at 18-24 years old stuck in long-term unemployment, is under development and expected to be introduced before the summer. It will involve a six week "warehouse operations traineeship programme".

Five apprentices will also be recruited to begin their careers at the Northallerton depot on a two year rotational programme. Recruitment for these positions will begin after April with a start date in September.

Coun Tony Hall of North Yorkshire County Council, said: "The Northallerton distribution centre is a valued employer in the town. This recent news of additional employment sends out a clear message that BT has confidence that Northallerton is a good place to grow its business.

"Furthermore BT are sending out a message to young people that opportunities are available to get involved with a company at the cutting edge of technology."