A MASSIVE earth sculpture dubbed the Goddess of the North has been treated to a mini-facelift as part of a project to help jobless teenagers improve their skills and make themselves more employable.
A group of young people have been carrying out gardening, grounds maintenance and drainage work – as well as planting 2,000 spring bulbs – at the Northumberlandia visitor attraction near Cramlington.
Working with local training provider, Azure Charitable Enterprises, the teenagers have been involved in planning, costing and carrying out the environmental improvements at the huge earth form, which takes the shape of a naked, reclining woman and was created from 1.5m tonnes of opencast spoil.
Northumberlandia, which is up to 100ft tall, a quarter of a mile long and opened to visitors last year, is maintained on behalf of the Land Trust by Azure Charitable Enterprises and the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
The work carried out by the teenagers is part of ongoing efforts to keep the sculpture looking at her best for visitors.
They are among 44 young unemployed people taking part in community projects on special courses aimed at learning new skills, and finding jobs and apprenticeships.
It is hoped they will also improve their confidence and self-esteem by putting something back into the areas where they live.
Northumberland County Council has given funding to four local training providers – Azure, Buzz Learning, CSV Learning North East and Northumberland Adult Learning Service – get the scheme off the ground.
The training courses, which combine vocational work experience with a commitment to develop maths, English and IT skills, are open to jobless youngsters aged 16 to 18 who are not at school or college.
Buzz Learning is working with another group of the teenagers to clean up and develop an allotment site, known as the Dug Out, in Ashington.
Those working with Blyth-based CSV Learning will be tidying up the garden at Hadston House community centre, near Amble, as well as doing improvement work in the wider Hadston area.
And Northumberland Adult Training Services is helping youngsters provide winter car checks for motorists, including tyres, oil, screen wash and anti-freeze, at Blyth’s Riverside business park.
Lesley Rickerby, the county council’s executive member for children and young people, said: “Unemployment is affecting young people across the UK, and in Northumberland we’re keen to help them develop their skills in a way that benefits them as individuals, as well as the communities that they live in.
“This programme involves officers from the council, as well as local foundation learning providers, with the expertise and contacts to help young people in many aspects of their job and training searches.”
Elaine O’Connor, the council’s head of employability and skills, said: “Each project has been developed with the providers to be meaningful to the community it is based in.”
This means that there is flexibility within the programme and the emphasis is on giving young people hands-on practical experience to help them develop skills and knowledge.