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Jobs, training and apprenticeships

Explore the benefits highlighted in our Waterways for Today report

Waterway projects can provide jobs, training and apprenticeships.

Our waterways offer many opportunities for employment, training and apprenticeships including in the tourism, leisure, hospitality, engineering and construction sectors.

How Waterways Can Help

Waterways provide many opportunities for employment, training and apprenticeships. These include jobs in tourism and leisure or the hospitality sector, working in a wide range of fields for a navigation authority, or in jobs created through regeneration of a local area, such as in the construction industry.

Waterway restoration projects also offer opportunities for employment, training, and apprenticeships. Although often led by volunteers, restoration sites have to comply with all construction, environmental, heritage, health and safety legislation and processes. This can provide valuable work experience for young people, or adults wishing to re-train, ahead of seeking employment in the construction industry, civil engineering or other fields.

Waterway projects often highlight the UK’s civil engineering prowess, with bridges, locks, tunnels and aqueducts to be rebuilt and new canal channels to be designed, along with flood alleviation schemes and environmental improvements.

Regeneration and restoration projects also demand innovative solutions to engineering problems, from the historic 19th century Anderton Boat Lift to its 21st century counterpart, the Falkirk Wheel. There are further opportunities for innovation in the use of floating homes, boat design and using canals as part of an integrated transport policy.

This apprenticeship is really important to me. I have always wanted to be a mechanic of some kind and I’ve always been drawn to
boats, but I only recently figured out there was a possibility to combine the two. It means a lot to me to have a job that I really enjoy.

Jacob, apprentice at
Tooley’s Boatyard, Banbury

Case Study: Apprentice on the Wey & Arun Canal

Adam Rayner became the first apprentice taken on by an independent canal restoration society when he signed up as a water environment worker with the Wey & Arun Canal Trust in 2021.

Bridgwater & Taunton College, the only place offering a water environment apprenticeship, developed the Level 3 course in partnership with the Environment Agency, National Trust, Canal & River Trust and Somerset Drainage Board.

The 18-month scheme has seen Adam working with Wey & Arun Canal Trust staff and volunteers to gain on-the-job  training, while studying both remotely and in-person at the West Country college with fellow students from as far afield as York and Cumbria.

With no shortage of projects and ongoing canal maintenance tasks, Adam has received a thorough grounding in many elements of canal restoration, from site work and health & safety through to habitat management. The Trust employs two full-time maintenance and restoration staff so was well-placed to take on an apprentice.

Adam’s background working with the Girlguiding and Scouting movement, and his interest in the outdoors, made the role appeal. The apprenticeship means he will get real hands-on experience, and a professional training qualification at the end of it.


I had no previous experience of working on canals, but with the skills and experience I’ve gained I am now confident and capable working with the Wey & Arun Canal Trust, managing different aspects of the waterway and working with volunteers to progress the restoration.

Adam Rayner, apprentice, Wey & Arun Canal Trust

Facts & Stats

A 2012 study found that additional physical activity on Scotland’s canals led to a £77k direct reduction in employer costs through reduced absenteeism, along with wider benefits in terms of increased productivity.

A study carried out 10 years after the Millennium-funded restoration of the Huddersfield Narrow and Rochdale canals found that around 500 jobs had been created.

Waterway locations offer enticing investment opportunities for developers, which in turn create jobs in local communities. Canalside property attracts a price premium of between 5% and 10% according to a 2019 study from the London School of Economics.

New developments alongside restoration projects can also see this benefit. Evidence suggests a 15-20% uplift in the value of waterside properties by incorporating a restored canal into plans for a site.

A new roundabout in Gloucestershire, which incorporates two crossings of the Stroudwater Navigation, was awarded prizes by the Institution of Civil Engineers at their South West Civil Engineering Awards 2021, including the People’s Choice Award.