Kickstarting young careers on the canal

Right now, young people are gaining valuable work experience on our waterways, thanks to our active participation in the government’s new Kickstart initiative.

Designed to help young people get into the job market, it provides six-month job placements for 16-24-year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment. As our canals often run through areas where job opportunities are needed most, we’re proud to help give more young people a fresh start.

Back in February, we called on you to tell friends and family about the benefits of the Kickstart Scheme and the roles we had to offer. We were inundated with applications from young people up and down the country. Eventually, we were able to offer placements to 47 successful applicants across our construction, operational and digital teams.

As Danny Matley, our strategic programmes manager, explains: “This is a fantastic opportunity for young people to gain valuable experience working on the waterways. The participants will be learning both heritage skills and getting involved in topical projects, such as how to ‘green’ the waterways and how to promote them to a wider audience. We hope to inspire a new generation of waterways workers, who will have experienced the benefits of being by the water and caring for the canals first-hand.”

Early signs of success

A few weeks into their new roles and our young participants are finding their feet, learning valuable skills, bonding with teammates and taking the first tentative steps towards gainful employment. In Burnley and Leicester, we were joined by a number of youngsters eager to gain experience with our operational team. They got off to a flying start.

In Burnley, the participants began by renovating the Wigan workboat. They worked tirelessly, removing dirt and debris, scraping off the old paint and giving it a fresh coat. They then put their new-found skills to the test, restoring the large footbridge at Bottom Lock, clearing litter, cutting back the undergrowth and giving the lock gate a fresh lick of paint.  

In Leicester, it’s a similar story. The team was tasked with improving the canoe access point at Barrow upon Soar, as part of ongoing work to the Soar Tour canoe trail. Guided by our engineers, the team successfully constructed and installed an access platform from the towpath to the River Soar, giving canoeists and paddleboarders a safe and easy way to get on the water. Most had never even picked up a drill before, and their mentor, Oliver, was “blown away” by the dedication, ingenuity and teamwork displayed by his young charges.

Making a brighter future

The scheme is not without its challenges. Many of the young people we employ have had a rough start in life and for some it can be difficult to adjust to a structured working environment.

With the help of our regional mentors and your continued support, we’re confident that our young participants can take the skills and experience they learn on the scheme and forge successful, fulfilling careers. Some may even find a permanent home right here at the Canal & River Trust.

Give more young people the chance to work on canals

Over the last few months, we’ve been recruiting for our 2021 apprenticeship intake, with apprentices starting with us in September. And 2022 intake planning is underway. In the next few months, we’ll be launching a new recruitment drive to fill some full-time apprenticeship roles. If you know of any young people who might be interested, please direct them to our website.

Last date edited: 4 August 2021

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