Groundwork North East & Cumbria is preparing the next generation of conservationists for a lifetime of environmental work after taking on six new apprentices.

River Tees Rediscovered, a wing of the social enterprise supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has welcomed six new Environmental Conservation Apprentices to its team, which is part funded by the Youth Employment Initiative and European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England. The new recruits take the total number of people on the team to nine.

During their training the apprentices, all aged between 18 and 27, will work with the project to help fulfil its ambition to preserve the history and environmental features of the River Tees for future generations. They will learn skills vital to environmental conservation including traditional crafts, surveying and reporting on the environment’s condition, and how to manage habitat and flood risks.

River Tees Rediscovered aims to give everyone a chance to explore and celebrate the River Tees. From Piercebridge to the coast, the project runs a series of community programmes and activities that tell the history of the river and its landscapes, and make it easier for everyone to enjoy the river and uncover its rich heritage.

Tom Watson, Partnership Manager at River Tees Rediscovered, said: “We’re so pleased to welcome our new apprentices to the River Tees Rediscovered team. They represent the next generation of conservationists, who will be absolutely crucial to preserving our natural and built heritage in the future.

“During their time with us the apprentices will learn all the skills necessary to begin a career in environmental conservation. However, many of the skills they will learn are transferable into other sectors.”

Callum Musgrove, 20, one of the new cohort of apprentices, said: “I took on this apprenticeship so I could work outdoors, interact with people and get a bit dirty. I like doing practical work.”

Tyler McKie, 21, is looking forward to using the skills he is developing with River Tees Rediscovered: “I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship at the minute. I want to pass my NVQ and start my own business at the end of the year doing this kind of work.”

Tom Watson added: “These kinds of skill-based apprenticeships are vitally important to the region. Not only do they provide an employment opportunity, which will provide our apprentices with further skills, improving their employability, but they also helping to protect the natural environment of the Tees Valley, not only for us, but for future generations.

“I’m looking forward to working with our new recruits to help them develop. I’m sure they will go on to become valuable members of our team.”

Kate Culverhouse, Chief Executive of Groundwork North East & Cumbria, said: “One of Groundwork’s key aims is to provide people living in the region with employment, or the skills and opportunities to find a job. Here we have been able to do both; giving these young people the chance to earn whilst they learn and gain valuable experience in the workplace.”