canal college® offers young unemployed a new chapter in learning

Scotland’s newest college is aiming to get more than 360 disadvantaged young people into employment through a new heritage conservation qualification.

canal college® is Scottish Waterways Trust’s flagship employability and training initiative aimed at getting disadvantaged 16-30 year olds into work. Offering almost exclusively outdoor, hands on learning along the Forth & Clyde, Union and Caledonian Canals, the students will work towards a new SQA Level 2 Certificate in Cultural Heritage during the 14 week course.

The courses will be run from the canals in Falkirk, West Dunbartonshire and Inverness with course activities centred on developing traditional heritage and conservation skills.

“Following on from the success of our pilot we are delighted to be launching canal college as a national programme,” said Scottish Waterways Trust Chief Executive, Karen Moore.

“Young people with more than one barrier to employment is a key group identified in the Scottish Government’s ‘Developing the Young Workforce – Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy’ and canal college specifically addresses the needs of this demographic.

“This pioneering programme will ensure that young people coming through the course will have the improved core life skills and the confidence that will enable them to move into a positive employment or educational outcome.

“Results from our pilot show that 70% of young people who completed the course achieve this and I’m confident we can replicate this success as the national programme rolls out.

As well as the new SQA in Cultural Heritage participants will also work towards a Saltire Award, John Muir Award, Heritage Heroes Award and SQA Level 5 Unit in Working Safely.

“Not only will canal college place hundreds of young people on a pathway to learning and work, the conservation projects they will undertake as part of their learning will help bring Scotland’s canal network to life,” said Karen.

“We are delighted that canal college has recognised that there is huge potential for our heritage to provide outdoor learning. Thanks to players of the National Lottery, the canals will provide powerful and memorable experiences for these young people enabling many of them to achieve qualifications for the first time. Their newly-learned skills will not only make a great difference to their own lives but will play an important part in looking after Scotland’s canal network.”

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland

Scottish Canals CEO Steve Dunlop said: “We are exceptionally proud to support canal college.

“The first phase of the project was a resounding success and saw each of its graduates learn new skills while helping to care for the incredible environments of the nation’s canals.

“Our staff, who helped train the students in everything from stonemasonry to archaeological surveying, were incredibly impressed by their dedication, commitment and willingness to learn.  Some of the graduates have since moved into full-time roles within Scottish Canals.

“Expanding the scope of canal college will build on that success and giving much-needed new opportunities, skills and confidence to Scotland’s young people.

“We look forward to supporting Scottish Waterways Trust and the students throughout the project and beyond.”

canal college has been developed in partnership with Developing Nation, eCom Scotland, Archaeology Scotland and Scottish Canals.

Notes to Editors


  • SWT creates brighter futures for people, wildlife and communities across Scotland’s canals
  • By connecting people with the heritage, wildlife and green open spaces of the Scottish canals, SWT inspires people to get active, improve their health and mental well-being, employment prospects and community life.
  • canal college is supported by Scottish Canals and Mackenzie Construction and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Avondale Environmental through the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund, The Robertson Trust and the National Third Sector Fund up until 2020. In the Highlands, canal college is delivered in partnership with Barnardo’s Works.

Find out more at or @ScotlandsCanals


  • From the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife, we use National Lottery players’ money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.
  • Please contact Shiona Mackay on 01786 870638/07779 142890 ( or Jon Williams on 0207 591 6035 (


  • Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of the Union, Monkland, Forth & Clyde, Crinan and Caledonian Canals. As well as the waterways themselves, Scottish Canals care for 251 bridges, 212 buildings, 256 locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and 19 water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland. The reservoirs cover an area equivalent to 7,494 football pitches and supply the canals with the 332 million litres of water which flow through them each day
  • The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.
  • Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, today the canals contribute to the Scottish Government agenda of developing a Greener; Healthier; Smarter; Safer and Stronger; and Wealthier and Fairer Scotland by acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, regeneration and tourism; contributing to education, biodiversity, heritage and promoting active living and healthier lifestyles. The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22million visits per year
  • For more information, visit follow @ScottishCanals on Twitter

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