Date: 
Monday, February 15, 2010 - 11:09

A programme that gives unemployed people a chance to work and train at the Eden Project has led to full-time jobs for some of its users.

Taste of Eden is designed to help unemployed people overcome obstacles to employment, guiding them through training, giving them a 13-week work experience placement, teaching CV writing, interview skills and other life skills to help get them back into paid employment.

The programme is financed by the European Social Fund, an EU body set up to improve employment opportunities and help raise standards of living.

Ricky Lawlor, 22, came to Eden through Taste of Eden in December 2008. He has recently started working full-time in the project’s maintenance team, eventually hoping to qualify as a plumber.

His job involves helping to look after the complex technical systems in Eden’s iconic Biomes, including responsibility for the pond in the Rainforest Biome’s Oceanic Island’s exhibit, as well as dealing with general maintenance issues around the site as they arise.

In the past, he has he found himself on the wrong side of the law so, three years ago, he decided to move from Nottingham to have a fresh start in Cornwall. He joined Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall trainee chef programme before moving to Taste of Eden when Fifteen’s former Admin Manager Lynn Major was appointed European Social Fund Programme Manager at the project.

Since starting work, Ricky has moved from a hostel into his own flat and, with Lynn’s help, is making arrangements to finish the City and Guilds Level 2 in Basic Plumbing Studies qualification he started in Nottingham. He has also got his Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card, which proves his occupational competence, and gained first aid and health and safety qualifications.

Ricky said: “I love working at Eden, the atmosphere is good and I enjoy meeting the visitors. Without the Taste of Eden programme and Lynn’s help, I don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be doing now.

“I wasn’t cut out to be a chef and have always wanted to be a plumber so when Lynn got her job at Eden she called me and said she may be able to help me achieve that goal.

“Working at Eden is a positive influence on my life, it helps keep me stable and I look forward to going in every morning. I’m gaining qualifications, learning my trade and growing in confidence and I’ve got all the back-up I need from Lynn and my team.

“My advice to anyone considering whether this is right for them is to just give it a go. There’s nothing to lose and plenty to gain.”

Lynn said: “I’m really proud of what Ricky’s achieved. The reason we do this work and think it’s important not only for Eden but for the wider community is that it gives people the opportunity to make a positive change.

“Most of the people on the programme are very willing and able to work but sometimes find too many obstacles in their way. This programme aims to remove those obstacles and help people reach their full potential.

”A lot of people have the misconception that jobs at Eden are mostly plant-based but this isn’t the case. We do have a world class horticulture team but a whole host of other professionals – catering, marketing, ICT, science and many more – work together to make Eden what it is.”

Ricky is one of 18 Taste of Eden graduates who have been given paid work either at the project or elsewhere since the scheme started in June 2008.

In total, Lynn has worked with 79 people, 30 of which have done the 13-week work experience. Many of those who haven’t been employed yet are working as volunteers at Eden.

Anyone who is over the age of 16 and unemployed is eligible for Taste of Eden. To enquire or for more information on the programme and how it can help people move closer to paid employment, please contact Lynn Major on 01726 818554 or lmajor@edenproject.com.