Tucked next to the SS Great Britain is an unassuming workshop, where half a dozen carpenters are hard at work.
Brought together through Bristol Community Learning, who help adults with few or no qualifications to gain skills, and the SS Great Britain Trust (the two organisations are working together to bring more opportunities for on-site courses), the six individuals are partaking in a nine-week carpentry course and learning valuable woodworking skills.
“The Trust’s partnership with Bristol Community Learning is part of the communities programme, which has been running for a year,” explains communities officer at the Trust, Leila Nicholas.
A diverse group of individuals are completing the course, which aims to be a stepping stone towards employment or further training. The participants include Ferdinand, who is recovering from poor mental health and Sophia, an actor who is keen to learn more about set design.
They are taught by Claire, a carpenter working for Bristol Community Learning. After working in TV, Claire changed career paths when her daughter was born seven years ago, training in woodwork at Bristol Women’s Workshop.
The people on this course aren’t just learning skills and building confidence, however, they are creating pieces that will be used to decorate the dockyard – from tables with joints to recreating crates. “They’re, like, historic,” Ferdinand explains. “To transport you back to the day!”
Leila highlights the importance on giving learners an opportunity to build their skills but work at their own pace, while also making sure the work produced is worthwhile.
The skills being developed through the course are already having an impact. Ferdinand has applied to volunteer at the SS Great Britain and has been taken on part time but a Cumberland-based boat repair and maintenance company.
For others, the course is a chance to try something new. Claire, from Fishponds, is enjoying learning different skills, and Sophia is excited to get involved in set design and being more self-sufficient at DIY.
Every person on the course taking part for a different reason – from mental health recovery to taking their first steps into employment – and all the magic is taking place in the shadow of one of the city’s most famous ships.
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