A trail-blazing project helping unemployed young people from Highland Perthshire has celebrated becoming independent.
Two years ago the Workshop Aberfeldy opened its doors, based in a dis-used industrial unit on Dunkeld Road.
Founded by forward-thinking design and technology teacher Paul Parmenter, the industrious team received initial support from Scottish charity, Project Northern Lights.
The social enterprise pilot took in youngsters, many with additional support needs, and started training them to produce a range of plastic, wood and metal goods for surrounding businesses. It quickly gained a reputation for quality work at attractive prices.
The Workshop Aberfeldy received a Start It award of £4000 in July 2014 from Firstport, Scotland’s national agency for start-up social entrepreneurs.
The good news is the Workshop Aberfeldy has now exceeded its first year income target by 85%, generating £39,000 in sales and a key achievement has been offering two local young people fixed term employment and training.
Now, having seen around 40 young people gain valuable hands on experience that could help them into work, the craft enterprise is off the ground and going forward alone. The Workshop became an independent charity in January.
Gina Wallace, chief executive of Project Northern Lights commented: “Our small charity incubated the Workshop as a pilot. Having initially offered it strategic network support, I’m thrilled to see it setting off on its own.”
Deputy First Minister and Perthshire North MSP John Swinney was at the Workshop’s opening in 2014 and he took time to return on Thursday for a “Going Solo” party.
He said: “I first came here nearly two years ago. Then the facility was largely empty but there was a clear ambition it would make a difference in the lives of local young people.
“Coming back now, it’s very clear that that has been achieved. Paul Parmenter’s leadership has inspired young people, reaching them in a way that some parts of our system do not reach those young people.
“The Workshop is really exciting project with great potential within the community.”
Using a state-of-the-art laser cutter, the Workshop can make anything from bespoke logo buttons to Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s stage sets.
Completed work includes Escape Route’s new café signage, a bespoke log arch for a local estate, a seat dedication plaque for the Birks Cinema and signs for the Corbenic Poetry Path.
Paul Parmenter told the PA: “It’s been quite amazing, a huge success.
“We have a passion for providing young people with training and employment opportunities in rural areas.
“Becoming independent really validates the Workshop as a concept. It enables us to continue to grow and offer more opportunities to people with additional support needs.”
“We’ve had 42 young people in for varying periods of time and gained a reputation for providing a whole range of well made products in wood, metal and plastics. We can make things by hand, laser and machine.
“We’re now looking seriously at one or two other locations to provide the Workshop ‘wherever’, as opposed to just the Workshop Aberfeldy.”
Gemma Henderson is the Business Manager at The Workshop Aberfeldy. Always inspired by the variety of products that 'walk through the door', this blog highlights some of the more interesting projects that are created here in The Workshop.