£1 MILLION SECURED TO TRAIN YOUNG PEOPLE FOR GREEN EMPLOYMENT

Wednesday 6th April 2016

One million pounds has been awarded to the Avon and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trusts to train 1,100 18-24 years olds in community engagement and conservation skills, and work with more than 7,000 young people over the next five years.

A real boost to help tackle youth unemployment, the Natural Estates project will empower young people living in social housing to gain new skills relevant to finding jobs. Through training, volunteering and entrepreneurial projects, they will contribute to the green economy and create a brighter future in their local communities.

The South West is fast growing a reputation as the green hub of the UK. The Bristol Green Capital year showcased how the green economy offers huge opportunities for the future and recent reports show the South West has the lowest unemployment in the country.

The Natural Estates project will work with more than 7,000 young people aged 11 -24 living in deprived areas with high unemployment, including Tewkesbury, Gloucester and Cheltenham

However, youth unemployment remains high and this is a serious problem for the long term prosperity of our region. Managing Director of Business West, Phil Smith says “Although unemployment is low, youth unemployment remains high and local businesses are still telling us that skills gaps are holding them back. Long term planning is needed from government, education providers and business to address this fundamental issue.”

Working in partnership with six social housing providers as well as local authorities, youth support organisations, schools and colleges this five year project led by Avon and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trusts will support young people living in social housing to become a catalyst for significant change in the way their local green space is managed.

The Natural Estates project will work with more than 7,000 young people aged 11 -24 living in deprived areas with high unemployment, including Tewkesbury, Gloucester and Cheltenham. Over 200 participants will be trained as Garden Mentors and learn how to consult their communities and lead environmental change that will benefit everybody. Green spaces across the social housing sites will be transformed, improving the environment for people and wildlife. In addition 1,100 participants will gain real world skills and experience to help them secure employment and improve their life opportunities for the future.

Young people have so much to offer, and to gain, from the Natural Estates project.” Explains Janice Gardiner, Programme Manager at Avon Wildlife Trust. “We need young people to get involved and help us attract their peers to the project. The opportunity for training and skills development to make creative changes on their doorstep will have long term positive impacts on the health and wellbeing of all the residents, and on wildlife. We want to inspire young people to make a difference on their own patch.”

The £1million grant is provided by the Big Lottery Fund as part of Our Bright Future - a national five year £33m programme led by The Wildlife Trusts, involving over 30 organisations.

Locally, the project will fund work with communities in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, and Gloucestershire. Avon and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trusts are keen to hear from youth engagement groups who can help to spread the word.

Jo Worthy-Jones, Wildlife Gardening expert at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust says; “Garden Mentors are equivalent to Groundforce – but with an emphasis on wildlife!” Over the last three years Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has been working with housing associations to help residents transform overgrown, unloved green spaces into thriving and welcoming gardens. “The impact of our Garden Mentors has been far greater than we imagined. With Natural Estates we will build on this success and extend the benefits and the opportunities to young people. Natural Estates is all about supporting youth from less affluent areas of the region to become environmental leaders of the future.”