New Highland Perthshire Facility: ‘The Workshop’

A buzz of excitement surrounds the announcement of the launch by Project Northern Lights of a groundbreaking community facility for Highland Perthshire.
The launch event will take place on Monday 19 May at premises in the Aberfeldy Business Park to be known as ‘The Workshop’.
There, young people and others throughout the area, will be offered opportunities for work experience and training in a variety of technical and manufacturing skills,
TheWorkshop2WebThese will initially include wood-working, metal working and CAD/CAM (laser cutting), although there will be potential for numerous others to be added.
The Workshop is intended  to support local people across the age span in

  • gaining employment,
  • furthering their skills, and or
  • setting up their own enterprises.

The prime movers behind the scheme and who have guided it over the hurdles to progress, are Paul Parmenter and Gina Willis (pictured).
A few other such projects have been tried out in other parts of the UK with varying degrees of success, and most have been located in urban areas.
To learn from them, these have been closely scrutinised. As a result, the hallmarks of this venture are
•  the range of partnerships that have been formed to carry it forward and
•  its set up as a community-based enterprise whose business plan projects for it to be self sustaining in five years time.

Profit Reinvestment
Paul told Comment: “Additional to the young  trainees and others seeking skills development, further young people will be offered practical business experience through engaging them in developing and running The Workshop itself, thus providing opportunities in administration, sales and marketing. 
“The operation will be run as a social enterprise, generating revenue by selling products made during training and taking on relevant contract work. All profits from these activities will be reinvested in developing the business. 
“Vocational training will be facilitated for the young people, including First Aid and Health and Safety certification. The intention is to  move them towards the Government’s ‘Certificate of Work Readiness’.”
As he spoke, Paul was handling a ‘first product’, ordered by a local client, which had come off one of The Workshop’s metalwork benches.

Generous Local Support
Funding for the project has come from a variety of sources. Gina revealed:  “We’ve received some grant support from P&K’s Social Enterprise Development Fund, and we are also very grateful for substantial assistance from the Ellis Campbell Foundation and £5,000 from an anonymous local donor.
“Presently we’re still waiting for news about our Lottery funding application and we’re expecting to hear from the Gannochy Trust on 15 May.”
Paul added: “James Woolnough, the MD of Blairish Restorations, has been really helpful and supportive and has leased the premises to us for as long as we want.”
Paul has 25 years’ experience of teaching and managing School Design and Technology Departments and has, until recently, been running his own business in Aberfeldy. His energy and conviction has fuelled the enthusiasm for the project’s realisation.
He continued: “As a community facility The Workshop will bring adult learning opportunities in other practical and artistic subjects, such as silver smithing, fused glass work etc.
“It will provide a half hour drive access  to equipment,  facilities and advice support for members of the Highland Perthshire community, including the school and community groups.”
Paul will manage the operation which has been developed by Project Northern Lights, a charity started by local company WildFox Events to support young people in Scotland back into employment, education or training. This is run by Gina Wallace, who has 15 years’ experience of the charitable sector focused on supporting young people into entrepreneurship.
Her skills and experience in forming partnerships has been seminal in bringing  things to the present stage. Her strategic vision for expanding its potential is set to play an important role in ensuring The Workshop to self-financing maturity.

‘Come All Ye’
Paul concluded: “We are currently inviting potential trainees to get in touch, and find out more about what can be offered to them.” Gina added: “We also warmly welcome contact on 07789 550383 from adults interested in exploring the hand-on of their trade or professional skills to others.”
The Workshop's launch will be held at the premises in Aberfeldy Business Park, Dunkeld Road at 6.00pm on Monday 19 May. Those who wish to learn more, or to attend the launch, should contact Paul at CLOAKING


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