|Routes into Employment: Regional Park Offers Work Experience
Back: Stuart Coleman, Billy Seddon, Cllr David Molyneux, Wigan Council’s Martin Purcell, John O’Neill, team supervisor Phillip Wright and Roy Bannister Front: Michael Fletcher and Daniel Brady
For some people, the route into work is a daily drag; for others, the route to employment is a long term struggle. But for these locals, the route to work is something they are actually making for themselves.
They are the first to benefit from a partnership between Wigan Council, Groundwork and Greenheart – the regional park at the heart of the borough – to give them valuable work experience and qualifications.
John O’Neil, former council deputy leader and now chair of the Greenheart Board, met with the trainees as they worked on improvements to the path on the former Whelley Loop Line.
John praised their dedication and said: “Greenheart is an area at the heart of Wigan Borough and includes some of the area’s best countryside – and as well as a resource for leisure, I am delighted Greenheart can help boost the employment prospects of these people and help our local economy.”
Environmental charity Groundwork is managing the team. It has extensive experience in countryside management and training and are giving young people mainly aged 18–24 a six month placement on which they learn practical skills and gain useful qualifications to help them into full-time employment. It’s funded from the Future Jobs Fund initiative and the Working Neighbourhoods Fund.
Current council deputy leader, Cllr David Molyneux, is also the borough’s champion for the economy. He added: “It’s crucial that we help as many young people as possible to learn relevant work skills if they are to gain future employment - another core objective of the Greenheart initiative.”
Members of the Greenheart Green Team clearly agree too. Billy Seddon from Scholes said: “I’ve never done work like his before so it’s a whole new experience for me to be using strimmers and other tools”. Roy Bannister from Pemberton agrees: “I really want to get a job and this is going to look good on my CV”.
The Whelley Loop Line – formerly a railway and now a ‘multi-use’ path for walkers, cycles and even horses – forms one of the main arteries of the Greenheart Regional Park. Together with the canal network, it links sites such as Pennington Flash in Leigh with Amberswood Common and Haigh Hall, as well as other parks, woodlands, wetlands, canals and green spaces that are all open for local communities to visit.
John O’Neil said: “There’s plenty to enjoy, whether you want to spend a whole day exploring with the family, or an hour having a quiet, leisurely stroll - so easy access is crucial.”
Funding for the Greenheart team has come from the Future Jobs Fund initiative and the Working Neighbourhoods Fund.
The Greenheart partners currently include Wigan Council, Bridgewater Canal, British Waterways, Groundwork, The Wildlife Trust, Land Restoration Trust, Leigh Sports Village, Red Rose Forest, Northwest Regional Development Agency, Wigan Culture & Leisure Trust and the Wigan Biodiversity Partnership.