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Funding grows for eco-trainees

PARK Lane College in Leeds has been awarded pound;500,000 from the European Social Fund to train 280 unemployed people in horticulture, wildlife, environmental and conservation skills.

The money is financing a project, Training For A Sustainable Environment, at the college's Horsforth Centre, the only horticultural and ecological studies centre of its kind.

The centre is state-of-the-art with a reed bed filtration system, a "bio-digester" that eats waste products such as oils and cattle slurry, composting facilities, greenhouses, propagation units and 1,800 fast-growing willow trees.

Trainees on the programme are encouraged to improve their own environments as well as gaining the skills and qualifications they need to get jobs. Training in basic skills includes computing and leads to national vocational qualification level 4 - a professional-level qualification.

The money will also help to improve the centre by introducing a drainage system for the reed bed, a bird hide, facilities for teaching dry stone walling, extra woodland and a mammal monitoring system.

Karen Hayday, the college's programme manager for Horticulture, Conservation and Ecology, said: "Without funding from the European Social Fund it would not have been possible to expand and enhance training provided through this centre.

"The site itself is run using organic methods and green technologies and is an excellent example of how small can be environmentally friendly. All our products and services are sourced locally."

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