From pies to parapets

A Wigan masonry apprentice has built a solid foundation for her career by picking up a national award less than a year into her role.

Left to right: Paula Baron, Ruth Runacus, apprenticeships co-ordinator at CRT and Jeff Croker (highly commended apprentice). PHOTO: CRT

Paula Baron, 26, won Apprentice of the Year at the Waterways Alive Awards run by the Canal & River Trust, where she has been working for 10 months.

Having graduated with a history degree, Paula was passionate about the past, but with opportunities thin on the ground she struggled to carve out a career she could love, instead working as a manager in a pie shop.

Fortunately, a stint as a volunteer at the National Waterways Museum and a Heritage Lottery Fund traineeship paved the way to an apprenticeship with the CRT.

The apprenticeship has allowed her to gain hands-on experience to put her learning and passion into practice, and during her time with the charity so far she has worked on several heritage landmarks and big projects across the country.

Paula said: “I didn’t expect this job to exist so I’m chuffed to even be here, never mind to win this award!

“I’m really proud to be able to bring history to life with my work. There’s something different every day, whether it’s rebuilding a bridge or talking to visitors about what we do, and the teams are committed to respecting and valuing the heritage features on the waterways. For example, using the right kind of mortar and stone is really important.

“I can’t imagine being in the pie shop now!”

The apprenticeship, which is due to finish in September 2019, will see Paula achieve a level 3 NVQ in masonry, and she aims to stay on with CRT as a qualified stonemason.