Students will help to rediscover Scotland’s canal heritage.
Part of the first intake at an innovative ‘canal college’, the 16 to 25-year-olds will learn a variety of new skills.
Designed by the Scottish Waterways Trust, the £468,000 project is supported by Scottish Canals and recently received over £195,000 funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as the European Union.
It will run for two years and offer 12 courses, each 14 weeks long, giving 500 people an opportunity to benefit.
Volunteer participants will be involved in a wide range of practical projects, conserving and interpreting the heritage of the 200-year-old Forth & Clyde and Union canals.
As well as creating a range of heritage and wildlife trails for the public to enjoy, they will work on two ‘signature projects’, the unearthing of the historic Falkirk Lock Flight and the creation of a new landscaped gateway to the Union Canal at West Calder.
Karen Moore, Scottish Waterways Trust chief executive, said: “We are thrilled to receive such tremendous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
“After two years of development, it is exciting to think that within a few months we will be able to open the doors of the canal college and begin to start helping young people in Falkirk and Edinburgh gain the skills and confidence they need to get on the path to work.
“The added significance of canal college is that, as well as giving so many young people relevant and transferable job skills, the project they will undertake will also benefit the wider community and help sustain the canals which are today Scheduled Ancient Monuments, full of heritage, wildlife and green open space.”
Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Our heritage offers a rich resource for skills and education so the fund is delighted to support canal college where it is being used in such an innovative way. The canals will provide powerful and memorable experiences for young people, making learning fun and opening their eyes to the heritage which surrounds them.
“Their newly-learned skills will not only make a positive difference to their own lives but will play an important part in looking after Scotland’s canal network.”
Participants will take part in practical supervised projects in three core heritage areas: natural, built and cultural.
Natural projects will include landscaping, tree planting and vegetation management, habitat creation projects and wildlife surveys to help manage biodiversity on the canals.
Built projects will teach them how to undertake surveys of buried locks and listed structures with archaelogical surveyors, discovering the engineering behind the canal network and practically helping maintain canal structures in partnership with Scottish Canals.
Heritage projects will include training in archiving, guiding skills and researching information to help interpret and engage people with the Scottish canals.
As well as working towards a number of awards and certificates, participants will be given help with job seeking and interview skills, and recieve a canal college award for completing the course.