Once, apprenticeships in the East End would have meant working in the vast docks or a grimy factory. Now, its about feeding sheep in the wide open spaces of Europe’s largest urban farm in Tower Hamlets.
Tower Hamlets Council is funding three new apprentices at Mudchute City Farm, which lies in the middle of the Isle of Dogs, once the centre of one of the largest docklands areas in the world. The apprentices work in accounts, childcare and animal care and are training for NVQ qualifications.
This week, Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs greeted both the new apprentices and some of the sheep while promoting National Apprenticeship Week.
Set in 32 acres Mudchute is a community charity and Europe’s largest urban farm. It includes a working farm, stables, a children’s nursery and a wide range of education activities.
Tanjima Khanam, 21, from Poplar, was already volunteering at the farm when this opportunity came up. “It’s been quite a journey to get here,” she said, “I want to stay here for as long as possible.”
Louie Legon, 19, also from London, who originally wanted to be a zookeeper, said: “I get assessed every couple of months and am learning something new every day.”
The money to fund their training comes from levies on developers for planning consent on major schemes to benefit the community.
Mayor Biggs said: “I’ve committed through my Mayoral Apprenticeship programme to broker 1,000 new apprenticeships. We have record employment in the borough and I want our young people to be able to share in these benefits through access to decent jobs.
“I am proud that fantastic community organisations like the East End Community Foundation are delivering apprenticeships from the proceeds of growth. During my visit to Mudchute I saw first-hand what a transformative and positive impact the new apprenticeship places are having on these hard-working young people.”
The apprentice scheme is being run in conjunction with the East End Community Foundation, which channels money into community based schemes. In 2015, the council agreed a 17-year deal with the Foundation worth £993,284.
The apprenticeship scheme has already led to 150 new jobs created while the council’s ‘Work Path’ programme, a unique employment service for all Tower Hamlets residents, has helped 2,600 people into training and employment since its launch a year ago.