Waterways in Stoke are being transformed as part of a scheme that gives unemployed people a route back to work.
The scheme is part of the Government’s Future Jobs Fund and is being run by British Waterways in partnership with Groundwork West Midlands and Stoke City Council’s JET (job enterprise and training) project. Eligible individuals have been referred from their local Job centres and placed into teams tasked with carrying out maintenance work on the canals.
In Stoke, there are two teams carrying out activities at various locations with tasks including resurfacing 600 metres of towpath at Denford, cutting back vegetation and repainting of metalwork. They have also carried out weeding and landscaping at Westport Lake. The works have been carried out to improve the safety and accessibility of towpaths and make waterside areas more attractive.
Each participant works a four-day week, with one of these days spent at college, and takes part for six months. In that time they receive one to one employment support and accredited training, giving them the skills, experience and confidence that will help put them back on track to permanent employment.
The first group is due to finish its 6-month term at the beginning of February and British Waterways’ volunteer leader Stuart Collins is keen to congratulate them on their achievements. “The participants in this project have made a fantastic contribution to the canals in the Stoke-On-Trent area” he said. “They’ve been working on a range of tasks such as edging the paths, trimming back vegetation and painting handrails and motorcycle barriers, which enables British Waterways’ own staff to focus on more specialised canal works. It’s a win-win scheme – the participants have gained valuable experience and their efforts have really benefitted the local canals and the people who use them, as testified by the positive comments we’ve received.”
Heather Sheldon, Senior Programme Manager for Groundwork West Midlands said: “Together Groundwork West Midlands and British Waterways have been able to provide young unemployed people aged 18-24 with an opportunity to gain experience and learn practical skills in an outdoor environment. The programme has been a great success and has had positive benefits for both the participants and the communities in which they work.”
Below are quotes taken from some of the participants working on the Future Jobs Fund programme:
“I am enjoying the work as we get to meet new people and to work outdoors.”
“It’s good to hear walkers give good comments about the towpath we are laying and give us respect in the work we are doing.”
“It’s fun working with British Waterways because you get a qualification at the end of it and I am gaining practical experience to enhance my qualification.”
“The project is good as it is giving me employment for 6 months and getting me into work and off benefits.”
“It’s good as it has helped me gain level 1 First Aid and Health and Safety. I am also completing a diploma in horticulture through this programme.”