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Paula's story

Apprentice of the Year 2018, Paula Baron was a Wigan masonry apprentice who has worked on several heritage landmarks and big projects across the country.

Waterways Alive Awards nominees

What did being an apprentice with the Trust mean to you?

I applied for my apprenticeship after completing a Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) traineeship. I also have a history degree and knew I wanted to work in the heritage sector. Becoming an apprentice with the Trust has given me the chance to take a role within heritage construction, an area I'm really passionate about.

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Doing something I love every day has shaped my career aspirations.
Paula Baron

How has being an apprentice helped you?

Being an apprentice has really helped me build my confidence and I'm more willing to voice my opinion. As part of my seven placements, I've found that in lots of cases it's beneficial to quickly find common ground with team members and sub-contractors to create a pathway for communication.

I have much clearer vision about what I want to do, and I'd love to continue working for the Trust, in a practical role. That isn't necessarily what I had envisaged when studying theory during my history degree, but that's really one of the great things about apprenticeships. I've been able to get involved and learn so much.

What have you been doing whilst at the Trust?

I've been working in a construction and maintenance team, helping to look after canals, and conserve and rebuild important heritage structures and keep them in good condition, safeguarding them for future generations.

I specialise in stonemasonry, but have been bricklaying and working as a carpenter too. Some of my highlights from the apprenticeship include championing the use of lime mortar instead of concrete, leading a bridge reconstruction project which included sourcing new stone and personally hand-dressing them so they match the originals, and being an ambassador the Trust at open days and events.

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I love that I would be leaving behind a legacy, hopefully for centuries - that's exceptional.
Paula Baron

What would you tell other young people considering an apprenticeship?

To do it and say yes to every placement opportunity possible. Trying lots of things gives you the broadest experience and a chance for passion to grow.

Apprenticeships are suitable for all ages and qualifications, and being young doesn't mean you won't be listened to. Thanks to my apprenticeship my career goals became more centred around the work I was doing. It's made me want to pass on my skills and experiences to others.

I'd also say that hard work and enthusiasm counts for a lot and every placement that has come up, I've put my hands up and become an integral part of the wider team.

In 2018 I was awarded the Trust Apprentice of the Year Award, followed by winning the north west regional final to become the Advanced Apprentice of the Year. I'm so proud of what I've achieved.

Last Edited: 25 January 2021

photo of a location on the canals
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