A project which works with businesses and young people in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire to develop traditional skills in industries such as carpentry and furniture manufacturing has received £100,000 funding from the Rural Regeneration Zone.
Skillbuilders is a group of artisans who work with young people aged 14 to 25 to pass on experience and skills in trades upon which the economy of market towns such as Ludlow and Leominster are built.
Skillbuilders is the brainchild of Graeme Perks, formerly chairman of the Ludlow Chamber of Trade, who supported efforts to ensure the skills of artisans in rural areas are preserved for future generations.
Working with a dedicated team of supporters, businesses and schools, Skillbuilders has become well established and is registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC), meaning it exists to benefit the community.
Funded by Advantage West Midlands, the Rural Regeneration Zone works with local authorities and partners to deliver projects to improve the economy in the neediest parts of Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
The £100,000 investment will help to provide extra resource for the Skillbuilders team over the next two years.
To date, the Skillbuilders project has worked with more than 70 businesses, schools and colleges across the Rural Regeneration Zone and has helped more than 1,000 people with skills development.
Graeme Perks, Skillbuilders Co-ordinator, said: “The economy in the rural parts of the West Midlands is very often driven by skills in crafts and skilled trades which, if we are not supporting them, could be lost.
“Often, people travel to this part of the world because of the high-quality of the skills, whether this is in making furniture or light manufacturing, and if these skills do not get passed on, we risk losing them forever.
“Skillbuilders has sought to encourage youngsters to think about learning some of these skills through programmes of vocational learning.
“We have a network of experts in a number of trades who enjoy working alongside young people and inspiring them to develop skills which they might not otherwise have even considered.
“Without the efforts and buy-in of businesses and schools, Skillbuilders could not be as successful as it has been and engagement is going to be even more important in the years to come. The investment from the Rural Regeneration Zone will enable us to step up our activity and reach out to even more people.”
Matt Smith, Rural Regeneration Zone Partnerships Team Leader, said: “Skillbuilders is a well established and successful project driven with real enthusiasm and dedication supporting both the skills and economic inclusion efforts of the Zone. The investment we have agreed will mean they will be able to do even more of their excellent work in the Rural Regeneration Zone.
“Losing young people to towns and cities as a result of low-levels of pay in our rural areas is a real challenge for our economy, Skillsbuilders is helping us to encourage more people into high-quality professions which will continue to be in demand for years to come.”