PROSPECTIVE young entrepreneurs in Oxfordshire could be given a helping hand into self-employment.

The Prince’s Trust charity is looking to expand its enterprise programme in the county and give young people a lift on to the career ladder.

The free scheme helps fund unemployed people aged between 18 and 30 interested in starting their own businesses.

The charity’s enterprise executive for the South, Richard Ryan, said: “With more than 4,300 16- to 24-year-olds in Oxford unemployed, the enterprise programme is a fantastic opportunity for young people.

“They can not only regenerate the city’s economy by running their own business, but also regenerate their hopes for the future.

“The free course will help them work out if self-employment is right for them, before giving them the skills and confidence they need to make their dream business a reality.”

The Prince’s Trust has already helped Cowley twins Darnella and Charmaine Daley.

Cycle Tours Oxford, their company that provides tours of the city by bicycle, was set up with the charity’s help last year. The sisters spotted a gap in the market after taking bike tours abroad.

Darnella took part in the enterprise programme in 2011, after graduating from University College London.

She said: “I knew I was going to be rejected by the banks for a start-up loan because of my age and university debt.

“I had nothing to show my business was going to be successful. It would have been a huge risk for a bank. Prince’s Trust seemed like the best option.”

The programme has several stages, made up of an initial information session, a four-day training course, a mentoring scheme, and then long-term investment.

It teaches the basics of keeping books, marketing, financial knowledge, and practical skills needed for running a business.

Darnella, 27, added: “It was a very comprehensive course about setting up a business, and there were other people who came to talk about the realities of running a business.

“I got a mentor, Edward Dowler, who is the director of Electro Components Pension Trustees Ltd and he helped me for three years.

“He was an invaluable person to have to talk to. It was really great to know you could refer back to somebody who had that understanding.”

The scheme provides more than just advice. It was able to give the company a £1,500 investment.

Darnella said: “I would 100 per cent recommend the course. Just having the name Prince’s Trust and to be associated with them is great.”

Programme manager Nick Giles said: “There are people who have had the door slammed in their faces. The programme gives them the opportunity of seeing if self-employment is an option for them.

“They can seriously explore their business idea. That can be very vague – for example, ‘I want to bake cakes’, or a specific business plan.

“If they don’t choose to pursue self-employment, we still provide ongoing support for six months to make sure they have a positive outcome, like traditional employment or an education plan.

“We want to support young people back into work and making sure they make the right decisions.”