Young people have been hard hit by the loss of training opportunities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but thanks to emergency funding, one organisation on the Northumbrian coast has been able to continue its mission. 

Blyth Tall Ship was awarded £37,100 from the National Lottery's Heritage Emergency Fund, ensuring that workshops and training opportunities could carry on. The organisation provides young people with invaluable engineering skills through heritage boat building.

“We knew we were a vital lifeline for those looking for jobs in an already struggling area. The prospects for staying afloat after the loss of our sailing income were shrinking rapidly.”

- Clive Gray, CEO of Blyth Tall Ship

When the lockdown was announced, Clive Gray, CEO of Blyth Tall Ship, feared the worst. With public events cancelled and the ability to sail the ship gone, all sources of income vanished. Twenty-five per cent of one year’s revenue was lost overnight.

Both national and local Government funds were not available to the organisation, so The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s emergency funding was the only port of call.

Ship at dock

Blyth Tall Ship. Credit: CMP

Clive Gray said: “We knew we were a vital lifeline for those looking for jobs in an already struggling area. The prospects for staying afloat after the loss of our sailing income were shrinking rapidly.”

Lockdown guidelines have meant that fewer young people have benefited from the project recently. However, as restrictions begin to ease, Blyth Tall Ship will be doubling the number of trainers in the coming weeks and preparing to welcome even more young people to take part.

Person mending boat

Blyth trainee

Despite the unusual circumstances, Blyth Tall Ship is still having a hugely positive impact on its trainees.

Scott Dixon, a Blyth trainee said: “There are virtually no opportunities at the moment for young people to get hands-on experience and qualifications in the offshore engineering sector and without Blyth Tall Ship I would be sitting at home on Universal Credit getting frustrated and depressed about the future.

"Instead I’ve had work experience in the port, passed my forklift driving course and am really enjoying getting my Level 2 NVQ working on these great boats!”

Now, Clive Gray is looking to the future. He said:

“We were like a sinking ship after hitting something unseen in the dark. The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s emergency funding is like the tarpaulin we would pull over the hole, giving us time to make plans and sail to a safe port. It’s so great to hear how important that is for our trainees and it gives us huge hope for the future.

"Thank you to National Lottery players - you are making a difference!”

This news item was taken from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, 28th Jul 20
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