DOZENS of disadvantaged youngsters will be enrolled in a unique “canal college” in Edinburgh under new plans.
The college, run by The Waterways Trust with the support of Scottish Canals, aims to offer 16 to 25-year-olds a chance to expand their skills, build confidence and increase their employability.
If the project secures £382,000 of lottery funding, the trust aims to have the college up and running by March next year, with students deployed to different areas of the Union, Forth and Clyde canals each day.
Karen Moore, development manager at Waterways Trust Scotland, told the Evening News: “Students at the college would take part in work over three core areas – natural heritage, built heritage and cultural heritage.
“This would see them doing things such as landscaping, tree planting, wildlife surveys, learning how to undertake surveys of buried locks and listed structures with archaeological surveyors, and also receiving training in archiving, guiding skills and researching information to help engage people with the Scottish canals.
“These skills could help aid them into employment in the environmental sector – for example, working as a park ranger – and could also help them find work in construction or on heritage sites. Towards the end of the course we will also help them with jobseeking and job interview skills.”
The Waterways Trust said a similar but smaller scale project called Green Action has already enjoyed success in Falkirk and North Lanarkshire.
Ms Moore: “If this goes ahead it will be on a grander scale, which would be far more meaningful and would build on the work of the trust to date.
“The project would only run on a two-year timescale as that’s how long the funding we are aiming to secure would last. However, our hope is that it will be really successful and that there will be scope for it to carry on, though we would need to go through the process of finding new funding.
“This college would be the first of its kind in the UK, maybe the world, and we think it’s a very exciting opportunity.”
The college hopes to train 144 students, who will each receive qualifications through the Northern Council for Further Education, the John Muir Award, Youth Achievement and the Saltire Volunteer Award.
“The Waterways Trust is also seeking older volunteers who wish to learn some new skills to come forward and support the project by working alongside the students.
Pat Bowie, general manager of Union Canal Tours, said: “Our tours are run by volunteers and we have no shortage of people coming forward, so I have no doubt this would be a success.
“The college sounds like a brilliant idea. It would be great to see younger and older people getting involved with the canal. It’s a great local resource that people maybe don’t take full advantage of.
“I’m sure the people involved would find this really interesting.”