Volunteers grow their job at Alconbury Weald


A group of volunteers will learn new skills, gain qualifications and do their bit for the environment in Alconbury Weald's new tree nursery over the next six weeks.

The volunteers – 12-15 local unemployed residents – will join together for Green Skills, an employment project run by community charity Groundwork Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, in partnership with Alconbury Weald owners Urban&Civic, Huntingdonshire Regional College, and Jobcentre Plus.

Huntingdon’s Jobcentre Plus have held recruitment sessions  to promote the project among their clients, which have been well-attended  with lots of people  keen  to boost their job prospects while helping the local community and environment.

Starting from next Wednesday (17 September), the volunteers will spend 2 days a week for 6 weeks at Alconbury Weald’s Community Tree Nursery. Supervised by two qualified Groundwork staff members, the group will work through a series of practical tasks to help develop the Nursery and in so doing will achieve  the City & Guilds Award in Employability Skills, and a health and safety qualification which will enable them to take the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) health and safety test.

Groundwork is one of the few providers offering young job seekers the chance to secure both of these qualifications for free – making them available to those who’ll benefit most. As part of the course, participants will also take part in interview training, and mock interviews with local businesses who are looking to recruit to similar vacancies. Previous schemes have seen a good proportion of people secure real interviews and go into work with companies involved. 21 people have progressed in to employment, education or further training in Huntingdonshire as a result of Groundwork’s projects since early 2014.

Over the course of the project, the group’s practical tasks will include building a shelter for an outdoor workspace and constructing raised growing beds to double the size of  the tree nursery. This will enable the Nursery to produce an estimated 3,500 trees a year toward the half a million planned to planted as part of the Alconbury Weald development. All of these trees are grown from local provenance, and by community volunteers led by Alconbury Weald’s tree ranger. The group will also produce raised beds for Graffham community shop.

The project brings benefits both to people and the environment, helping participants gain confidence and skills at the same time as using the environment as a catalyst for building a more sustainable future both for them and for others.

Rebecca Britton from Urban&Civic said: “We are really looking forward to this round of Green Skills. The work will help us complete and expand the Tree Nursery which is already providing both trees for the development and volunteering opportunities for local people. But crucially it will do it in the right way: helping people gain valuable experience, qualifications and confidence. This project will come at a time when we have landscape contractors and construction companies on site starting our next phase of Enterprise Zone development, and we will involve those contractors in helping find experience and employment for those taking part.”

Adam Beadle, Groundwork Green Skills Supervisor, said: “We’re looking forward to starting work with a promising group of local people. Being able to give them the skills and experience they need to progress into work or further training is great, especially as they’ll be benefitting the local community at the same time. Knowing that they’re helping cultivate the trees that will grow on the fantastic Alconbury Weald development for years to come really underlines the reach and longevity of this project.”

Green Skills is the latest project run under the banner of Groundwork Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s Grassroots project, funded by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Economic Partnership’s Prize Challenge Fund, with match funding contributions from Huntingdonshire District Council and Urban&Civic.