Local Investment in Future Talent; Outdoors for the Future

April 2019 – March 2020

LIFT OFF was a European Social Fund ‘LIFT Trials’ project. This program is an employability and skills delegated grant scheme, for voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSE) and other relevant organisations in rural areas of Norfolk and North Suffolk, with financial support from Norfolk County Council, Broadland District Council and South Norfolk District Council. 

The project aimed to support smaller rural businesses and non-profits (SME’s) who can sometimes struggle to recruit the right candidates. To do this the project team worked with eligible host organisations managing countryside sites in rural Norfolk and North Suffolk; sites where there was existing public access to the countryside that could be improved though simple interventions. Hosts were Norfolk Wildlife Trust, to work on sites including Holme Dunes, Foxley Wood and Roydon Common, Norfolk Archaeological Trust, to work at Caistor Roman Town, St Benet’s Abbey and Burgh Castle, Ringsfield Hall Eco Education Centre, Salhouse Broad, The Hawk and Owl Trust, to work at Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve and Salle Moor Farms.

We paired the SME’s with trials participant.  These were people not in work, education or training, who wanted to gain confidence and overcome barriers in order to enter or return to an environmental career. This included older people, young people, people with mental health issues, people with disabilities or people with little or no experience of the workplace.

In order to make the best use of the opportunity, participants were referred by specialist support organisations including ‘On Track’, Norwich and Central Norfolk MIND, Job Centres, regional NHS organisations and The SHAW Trust.

With these participants and hosts we organised a series of supported work trials in which the participants learn work readiness skills. They are also given the opportunity to take up formal training, including health and safety, interview skills, basic tool use and First Aid certificates. The focus of the trails was the production of a series of Access Audits, which not only involved learning the new skills, but also created a resource for the host businesses in identifying potential access improvement projects, and for Pathmakers, in supporting wider access to the sites.

Host businesses were also offered training, including workshops with recruitment experts on hiring people with disabilities and mental health issues, and also the opportunity to take up ‘Disability Confident’ and ‘Mindful Employer’ Accreditation.

Feedback all partners was very positive:

From hosts:

“It has helped us to have a clear picture of what our trail has to offer and where to target improvements.”

From referral organisations: “This project was excellent for people lacking in confidence as it gave such a gentle easing back into dealing with people and entering the workplace. Thank you very much – clients have since moved on to further training projects and it is this first step that gave them the confidence to move on.” 

And most importantly, from participants:

“The reason I applied to the Lift Off project was because I was unemployed and my life was not really going anywhere. The Lift Off project gave me the opportunity to gain some new knowledge to help me eventually get into work. It was also a good way of seeing nature and local places of interest.”

“The work trials have given me a more positive mindset of working outdoors, especially in natural surroundings and historic sites.”

The project was staffed by Pathmakers volunteers, working with a seconded officer and project management team from the Environment Team of Norfolk County Council.

Project Officer Ella Meecham will work for Pathmakers for 3 days per week on the project, which runs until 2020. She will lead small groups of people on work trials carrying out tasks related to auditing and management of footpaths on land owned by the host businesses.