The charity making life better by water

Shaping young lives on our canals

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we’re showcasing some of our colleagues in our learning and development programme.

We caught up with apprentices Tyler, Corinne, Amber and graduate Holly to get their take on life with the Trust.

Young apprentices walking next to the water at Canary Wharf

Building a future by water

Tyler Williams began his journey with the Trust as part of our Kickstart scheme. He has always loved working with his hands and when he got the chance to train in the art of stonemasonry, he eagerly accepted.

Stonemasonry apprentice Tyler working on Finsley Gate Wharf

Tyler and three of our other craft apprentices were set to work on Finsley Gate Wharf in Burnley. The former boat yard and canal office had recently undergone a major renovation; unfortunately, work had stalled due to the pandemic, and the final piece of the jigsaw, a small, stone-built wash house was still in a state of disrepair.

Under the close guidance of our team, Tyler and his fellow apprentices helped to repair the building, converting it into a new storehouse for the site’s volunteer gardeners. He remembers the experience well.

“It was an exciting project, very different to our usual scope of work. I got the chance to work with lots of skilled stonemasons and carpenters, who were all happy to pass on their knowledge. It gave me a great grounding, helping me develop valuable skills and experience which I’ll be able to put to good use on future projects.”

Just two years on from this seminal experience, Tyler joined us as a full-time stonemason, preserving this rare, specialist skill for another generation.

Winning friends and awards

Our next apprentice, Corinne Spiller, works in one of the more iconic and unusual sites on our network. Diglis Lock is a man-made island in the middle of the River Severn, in Worcestershire. Home to the biggest fish pass in the country, it proved the ideal environment for Corinne to hone her digital marketing skills and indulge her love of nature.

Apprentice Corrine at Diglis Lock

“The apprenticeship has given me an amazing set of skills,” says Corinne, “including social media marketing, website management, graphic design, and copywriting; even my fish ID skills have seen a marked improvement. Niche, I know, but that’s part of the fun when you’ve worked at Diglis!”

Corinne made such a splash in her time on the island, she earned a nomination for the prestigious National Apprenticeship Awards. Since then, she’s joined our social media team on a permanent basis.

“My apprenticeship gave me tonnes of knowledge,” says Corinne, “and I’m proud to continue sharing the stories, campaigns, celebrations and achievements of the work we do at the Trust, alongside my super colleagues.”

Kickstarting a career

Amber Sinkinson joined us in June 2021 as a waterways apprentice in Kilby Bridge, near Leicester. After studying business for three years at college, she found herself out of work. To keep busy, she began volunteering with the Trust as part of our Kickstart programme.

Things went so well, we encouraged Amber to join on our apprenticeship program to further her skills and knowledge. As a waterways apprentice, Amber’s involved in the day-to-day operations of Leicestershire’s canals, helping to keep them open and accessible to boaters, paddlers, anglers and towpath users.

Since taking up her position, she’s become well-versed in lock gate maintenance and water level management; she’s supported various volunteer teams, and even trained as a helmsman. “Working with the Trust is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Amber tells us, “one which I would happily take again.”

Taking the next step

Apprenticeships aren’t the only learn route you can take with our charity. Holly Greenaway joined us last year in Gloucester, as part of our Graduate Civil Engineering Scheme. Fresh out of university, Holly was looking for an opportunity to learn on the job and take the next step to becoming a chartered civil engineer.

Just four months in and Holly is already working as a project manager, overseeing maintenance works in London, the South East, and the West Midlands. “I’m learning new processes and procedures every day,” she tells us, “and no day is the same!”

Holly is putting her new-found skills to good use, managing a lift bridge mechanisation project on the Oxford Canal, near Banbury, and heading up a team that’s unblocking a sluice on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.

As part of the graduate scheme, Holly has also completed placements in asset management and HR and learned about contract management and procurement. “The environment at the Trust is so unique,” she says, “every day and every project is so different!”

Sharing knowledge and skills on our canals

With dozens of apprentices working across our 2,000-mile network, in everything from water management to ecology and heritage, these are just a few of our success stories. At the Trust, we’re proud to invest in young people’s futures and give them the skills and experience they need to take those first tentative steps on their career path.

Last Edited: 13 February 2024

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