The National Park Authority set up its apprentice scheme more than 20 years ago to help young people develop the skills and confidence to find jobs locally and therefore sustain local communities. The practical skills programmes that we have run as part of our environmental conservation apprenticeship are training people in countryside management, farming and traditional building skills that are in short supply locally.
Having seen the benefits of our conservation apprenticeships to both the Authority and the wider community, we have extended the number we offer to include apprenticeships in business administration and finance and have plans to develop apprenticeships in new areas of work in the future. At the moment 14% of our workforce is made up of apprentices and as well as the 16 we employ, we support the employment of a further 8 apprentices within the National Park.
Despite significant cuts to our budgets in recent years, we are increasing the financial resources for apprenticeships and we see working with schools to promote apprenticeships as one of a range of options for all academic abilities as an important priority.
For the Authority, the rewards of apprenticeships are huge. For example, in a typical two years, a team of conservation apprentices will enrich 20 hectares of habitats, improve 40km of recreational routes and build or repair 4.5km of dry stone wall, hedge or fence boundaries. Without our apprentices, this work either wouldn’t be done or we would have to spend considerably more than the cost of our apprentices on contractors.