LIFT OFF project update by Ella Meecham, project delivery officer.

The LIFT OFF project is well underway and it has been a very exciting few weeks for me and is something very different to my previous role working for the Marriott’s Way Heritage Trail. Once I had got my head around all the nitty gritty I could really get stuck in with getting the project off the ground. I have been super busy meeting with lots of new people and making some important contacts from a range of different organisations and charities across Norfolk.

The first stages of the project included recruitment for the work trials. We wanted to work with people who are not in full time education, employment or training. This could be anyone, from any background, including older people, young people, people with mental health issues, people with disabilities and people who have little or no experience of the workplace. The LIFT OFF project hopes to help those who need that extra training and confidence boost and they will then have the ability to include the valuable skills gained through the project on their CV.

LIFT OFF Project Poster

I began by getting in touch with some organisations who are already working with people who are looking to gain some essential work experience. I got in touch with On Track, a part of The Matthew Project who want to help remove barriers to employment for young people in Norfolk. We are now receiving applications from On Track from all over Norfolk and I am really excited to meet with them. I have already met some of the applicants and I am really impressed and looking forward to working with them over the upcoming months. I have also met to discuss the project with Mid Norfolk and Norwich Mind and hope to work with them more later on in the project. Recruitment will be ongoing throughout the project with several work programmes ongoing until February 2020.

Our next stage was to find suitable sites to carry out the work trials at. One of the project funding conditions was that we work on sites owned by a small rural business or charity which has less than 250 employees. The partnering organisation would then become a ‘host’ for the project. To me this sounded a bit alien like but it just meant the hosting organisation would allow us to carry out our work trials on their land including the auditing of their footpaths and the site’s general access. To my joy we have got on board the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and have agreed with them to work on sites such as Hickling Broad, Holme Dunes and Foxley woods amongst other NWT nature reserves. I am so excited to get started here and think the work trial participants will really enjoy and benefit from working in these amazing locations.

The Norfolk Archaeological Trust have also agreed to become a hosting organisation and have very kindly allowed us to work on sites such as St Benet’s Abbey, Caistor Roman Town and Burgh Castle. Burgh Castle is home to another Pathmakers project which helped to build a fantastic boardwalk along the Angles Way, which helped improve access around the old roman fort. I am also really excited to work with The Restoration Trust and The Burgh castle Almanac who are already carrying out amazing volunteer work there. Prior to the work trials beginning I carried out a number of site visits to all these locations. I had to pinch myself that this was actually my job to walk around some of the most beautiful and breath-taking nature reserves and historic sites in Norfolk. One visit I was watching a Marsh Harrier hunting over me at Hickling, the next I was taking iconic shots of the moody looking St Benet’s Abbey with a traditional Norfolk wherry very timely sailing past. I was also thrilled that Ringsfield Hall and Salhouse Broad wanted to be a hosting partner on the project.

A sunny day at Salhouse Broad
A very dramatic scene taken at St Benet’s Abbey, one of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust sites we will be working on

I am now beginning to match participants into groups to work on different host sites and writing up a detailed work plan for them. The benefits of the LIFT OFF work trials is that the participant will have an increased sense of confidence in the workplace and work related processes, such as interviews. They will gain experience of carrying out audits and the costing up of access improvement works. The access improvements will be recommended to the host business and there is potential for the improvements to be carried out on the trials on the chosen work sites. During and after the trials the participants will receive advice on progressing into employment, training or other work experience and volunteering opportunities.

The work trials are set to begin in the next couple of weeks and I am really keen to get started and excited to work with new people in some of the most stunning locations in Norfolk. I’m sure to learn and take just as much away from this project as the participants will. If you have any questions about the project or know anyone who might like to get involved please free to contact me by email: ella.meecham@norfolk.gov.uk.

The boardwalk along the Angles Way at Burgh Castle.