Bill Marley, the man behind unemployment charity the Employability Trust, has been named as one of only 50 business figures in the UK to receive a top national accolade.

Bill, who founded the Peterlee-based charity in 2012, made it onto a list compiled by Women of the Future Programme in association with the Lloyds Banking Group.

The Kindness and Leadership Awards list of the inaugural ’50 Leadings Lights’ recognised those people who made an outstanding contribution to business, the economy and society, and featured well-known names including England Manager Gareth Southgate and handbag designer Anya Hindmarch CBE.

Bill was presented with his award at a glittering ceremony at the London Stock Exchange yesterday (Tuesday).

He said: “I am absolutely delighted to receive this award, especially alongside such esteemed people as Gareth Southgate, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and Anya Hindmarch CBE, to name just a few.

“This award is a real testament to everything I and the Employability Trust team have achieved over the last few years, helping people who have struggled to find employment gain the skills needed to move into secure work.

“I am truly humbled to be recognised in this way and am grateful to everyone who has helped me on the journey I have been on since launching the trust six years ago.”

The Employability Trust has helped hundreds of long term unemployed people gain sustainable employment with a variety of companies throughout the North East, providing practical work experience and passing on the skills necessary to move into the world of work.