We are determined to make a positive difference to the region and communities we serve, and have decided to measure our performance through a Community Perception ODI. In 2016/17, a survey of customers found 52 per cent of those asked agreed that we care about the communities we serve. We have committed to increase this to 60 per cent by 2019/20.
Our water parks and nature reserves provide recreation for many thousands of people, conserve and enhance our region's natural riches and help us make a positive difference to the communities we serve. We manage public access to almost 4,000 hectares of parkland, woodland and water, most of it centred on 10 of our 14 reservoirs. The first of our water parks was at Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire, which was 50 years old in June 2016. The anniversary celebrations began with a visit from HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, who officially opened the reservoir back in 1966. This year was also the 20th anniversary of the Rutland Osprey Project. To celebrate, the park played host to the Rutland Osprey Festival 2016 in April. More than 100 school children submitted creative writing, art, poetry and science entries for the Osprey Festival competition.
In summer 2016, Rutland became the first water company-owned site to be accredited under Visit England's Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme (VAQAS), which focuses on customer service and visitor experience. In Norfolk, Taverham Mill Nature Reserve and Fishery was awarded the prestigious Green Flag standard for park management for the first time this year, with Rutland, Grafham, Pitsford and Alton Water all retaining theirs.
We continue to operate at the heart of two education initiatives to develop the technical skills of 14 to 19 year olds and provide opportunity for employment to the next generation. We are the lead sponsor of the Greater Peterborough University Technical College (GPUTC), which opened in September 2016 and aims to provide a world-class technical education with an emphasis on sustainable engineering and construction. The academic and industry sponsors shape the curriculum and offer employer projects that will bring the learning to life. Anglian Water and its civil engineering alliance partners are also sponsoring two BTEC courses at the College of West Anglia in Wisbech. These will lead to apprentice programmes and should help us to find mechanical and electrical engineers and construction operatives of the future. Students who pass their courses at either institution will be offered an interview for employment with Anglian Water or a partner organisation.
Both of these initiatives play a significant role in the future success of our workforce. Alongside them, our graduate and apprenticeship programmes ensure we have the right skills in the business now. This programme is highly successful, with 92 per cent of apprentices and 91 per cent of graduates employed since 2012 still with the company. There are currently 81 apprentices on our programme, and our intake for 2017 will be the largest to date, with 65 new apprentices being taken on across the business.
We aim to make a long-term difference to the communities in which we work. This can be seen in our education programme, our employee volunteering programme and our work on projects such as Wisbech Beyond 2020, which has helped that community create their vision of the future.
We brought together our supply chain companies with local community and educational leaders, the local council and MP to launch a campaign to reconnect the town to the rail network. This was integrated into council travel plans, won funding through devolution deals and progressed into Network Rail's investment appraisals process. We have also supported the council and the local community in exploring what sustainable, resilient development could look like. This has resulted in a proposal for a new, climate-resilient Garden Town development, which will shortly be submitted to the Government.
For many years we have been active in the Prince of Wales' Responsible Business Network, Business in the Community (BITC). Every year BITC celebrates leadership in responsible business. This year we are honoured to have been named Responsible Business of the Year in recognition of our Love Every Drop strategy, which seeks to put water at the heart of a more sustainable way of living. Responsible Business of the Year is one of the UK's highest accolades for business. It is given to companies that put social and environmental concerns at the heart of their strategy, demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and embed it in the culture of their entire business and supply chain.
Our education centres at Chelmsford and Leighton Linslade opened in 2007 to engage current and future customers on issues such as water conservation and responsible use of the sewer network. We are also improving the prospects of many more young people through long-term partnerships with schools in our region; widening students' horizons, extending their aspirations and equipping them with valuable skills for later life.
Our Community Education team has seen 355,693 people since it formed, including more than 28,000 children in 2016/17. The team carried out 270 school visits last year, delivering free sessions in more than 170 different schools. The programme continues to evolve in response to changes in the curriculum and to business needs. In 2016/17, there was a focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) related activities, linked to employability skills and expanding students' knowledge of careers within Anglian Water.
We support National Women in Engineering Day and this year we invited more than 200 students from seven Huntingdonshire secondary schools to take part in science and engineering challenges, meeting engineers from Anglian Water and our alliance partner companies. The children completed a range of challenges and were encouraged to consider engineering as a career. As a result, 99 per cent of the girls who attended said they learnt something about engineering and 94 per cent were more positive about it.