Wigan Canal apprentice wins national award

A Wigan masonry apprentice has built a solid foundation for her career by picking up a national award less than a year into her role at the Trust.

Paula Baron, 26, won Apprentice of the Year at the Waterways Alive Awards.

Having graduated with a history degree, Paula was passionate about the past, but with opportunities thin on the ground she struggled to carve out a career she could love, instead working as a manager in a pie shop.

Fortunately, a stint as a volunteer at the National Waterways Museum and a Heritage Lottery Fund traineeship paved the way to an apprenticeship with the Canal & River Trust.

The apprenticeship has allowed her to gain hands-on experience to put her learning and passion into practice, and in her time with the charity so far she has worked on several heritage landmarks and big projects across the country.

From pies to parapets
Paula says: “I didn’t expect this job to exist so I’m chuffed to even be here, never mind to win this award.

“I’m really proud to be able to bring history to life with my work. There’s something different every day, whether it’s rebuilding a bridge or talking to visitors about what we do, and the teams are committed to respecting and valuing the heritage features on the waterways. For example, using the right kind of mortar and stone is really important.”

The apprenticeship, which is due to finish in September 2019, will see Paula achieve a level 3 NVQ in masonry, and she aims to stay on with us as a qualified stonemason.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Trust, adds: “Paula is an exemplar for us all, a dedicated employee, committed to her development and an ambassador for the Trust, demonstrating our values and going above and beyond her core role with her passion and enthusiasm.

“Our apprenticeship programmes ensure we continue to retain the vital skills we need to look after our historic canals and river navigations for future generations, and Paula is a leading example of the talent, dedication and hardwork of the many apprentices within our teams.”

Paula says: “I can’t imagine being in the pie shop now.”

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