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An environmental project is acting as a stepping stone to employment for many young people in Middlesbrough. Over the past two years One Planet Pioneers has engaged with over 1000 young people through apprenticeships, work experience, career workshops and volunteering activities.

One Planet Pioneers, funded by the Big Lottery Fund through the Our Bright Future programme, is a collaboration between Middlesbrough Environment City (MEC), Actes Trust and Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, which aims to develop the skills of young people through environmental projects.  The project currently works with 11 apprentices who are employed by project partners, the largest number to be engaged with the project at any one time.

One Planet Pioneers is designed to equip young people with a range of skills that can be taken to prospective employers.  Project apprentices and volunteers take part in a diverse range of activities using the One Planet Living approach, including managing green spaces in and around Middlesbrough, learning how to fell trees, coppicing, planting, footpath work and wildflower grassland management.  They also assist with outdoor education for local school groups and at community events, which helps with confidence raising and developing communication skills.

Since its inception 13 young people who have completed an apprenticeship or volunteered with the scheme have gone on to secure employment with many more volunteers moving onto college, university or further training.

Twenty-one-year-old James Stubbs who undertook an apprenticeship with Middlesbrough Environment City between September 2016 and September 2017, working on One Planet Pioneers, is now employed by the organisation as an Active Travel Trainer.  During his apprenticeship he represented the project in the first Youth Forum in London, an experience that not only gave him a sense of responsibility, but which helped boost his confidence.

James said: ‘’The opportunity to gain new skill and work experience during the apprenticeship was amazing, it has given me invaluable skill that I now use in my everyday work.”

Meanwhile 22-year-old Bailey Harkin, who lacked experience to enter the jobs market when he embarked on One Planet Pioneers’ first apprenticeship cohort with MEC in 2016, has since gone on to secure his ideal role as part of Middlesbrough Council’s cleansing team.

One Planet Pioneers’ latest apprentices are using the experience to prepare for entry into work, many in the field of horticulture and conservation.  21-year-old Jessica Fox, one of the project’s first female apprentices who is employed by Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, says the scheme has opened her eyes to the wide range of jobs available in the sector.

She said: “The apprenticeship has allowed me to try new things and work with new people. I’ve developed skills I never would have learned and have found a greater interest in nature and the types of jobs available in the industry.  Working outside in all weathers has been a pleasure for me and seeing relatively local places that I’ve never visited before has been amazing.”  

In addition, One Planet Pioneer volunteers have contributed over 6000 hours of their time to date while gaining valuable work experience.  Zhuhaa Siddiq spent two weeks volunteering on the project, engaging with apprentices on various conservation and horticultural tasks with schools and community groups, which allowed her to explore the occupational sector.  She said: “The overall volunteer experience in many ways exceeded my expectations and I now feel more inclined to engage in my own community.”

One Planet Pioneers officer Nicky Morgan, said: “I can speak for all of One Planet Pioneers’ project partners in saying that we’re incredibly proud of all of our apprentices and volunteers past and present.

“All of the young people who have engaged on the project have overcome significant challenges and grown in self-confidence during their time on the scheme.  They have enhanced their skills set and experiences through involvement in a diverse range of environmental activities and as a result many have gone on to secure employment or undertake additional training.  Our latest apprentices are showing great promise and I have no doubt will go on to repeat the success we have seen to date.”

One Planet Pioneers is one of 31 UK wide projects forming the Our Bright Future programme which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.  For more details or to register an interest in One Planet Pioneer activities call Nicky or Casper at Middlesbrough Environment City on 01642 579839/579832 or email Nicky at nicky.morgan@menvcity.org.uk

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