Project In A Box – Sponsored by the Community Learning Innovation Fund


  • By the summer of 2012, Blyth Tall Ship had developed a level 1 NVQ in Engineering Operations for NEET (not in employment education or training) people, using heritage boat building skills benchmarked against modern standards, through a project with the Heritage Lottery Fund. It has also recruited and given outline training to a number of volunteers in Archive skills to work on the Port of Blyth Archive. Both activities had led to a demand for further training from learners, to expand their skills set.
  • The Community Learning Innovation Fund and Northumberland County Council enabled us to develop the ‘follow on’ courses that were being requested, with the aim of improving confidence and wellbeing, improving employment outcomes and increasing volunteer engagement.    


The project objectives and planned outcomes for learners;

  • The plan was to achieve a number of training outcomes:
    • To get our Level 1 NVQ enabled to secure Skills Funding Agency funding as a provider.
    • To develop a Level 2 NVQ in Marine Engineering
    • To Develop a Level 1 NVQ in welding, that covered Mig and Tig welding as well as giving Tharsus an opportunity to assess the learners as potential employees directly.
    • To develop a Port Operations entry level training course.
    • To develop on-going training and development for volunteer archive workers.
  • At a learner level we were looking to achieve
    • Commitment of learners to further training of around 60%.
    • Improvement in confidence to learn, to gain employment and in their self-esteem.
    • Improved employment outcomes
    • Increased commitment form Volunteers.       


The Results in practice:

  • Learners: 
    • 10 people took on the Level 2 NVQ Marine Engineering course.
    • 10 people completed a port operations course gaing proffessional tickets for Fork Lift and Crane skills.
    • 8 people gained a Level 1 NVQ in Mig and Tig welding.  
    • 10 volunteers attended Archive training and team building sessions. 
    • The average response on a scale of 1 to 10, via a post course questionnaires to the following questions was:


Question Average
My confidence in my ability to find work has increased 9.56
My confidence in learning new skills has increased 9.76
My interest in going on to other training has increased 9.66


  • 52 people gained a level 1 NVQ and 6% of those found work. 33 of the 52 took a further course and the employment rate of the 52 went up to 20%. This figure is likely to increase to about 25% within 6 months of the completion of the project as a number are only just completing their courses at the time of writing.
  • A survey run by People Gauge of learners and volunteers produced a word picture of our organisation which is very encouraging:

  • Communities and other  stakeholders;
    • Volunteers were more confident and energised and over the period increased the number of hours given by 100% and had a very high self-actualisation score in the People Gauge survey showing strong engagement and personal growth in the esoteric areas of motivation around giving and personal growth.
    • 5 new volunteers joined us as a result of PR around the training that was available and as can be seen from the People Gauge survey results on the friends below, there are very string self- esteem scores 


    • Local companies have been taking on our learners and are thus more likely to find skilled labour locally and to be able to expand rapidly when needed. 


The project timetable


Date Activity Note
Sept 12 Six week Level 1 NVQ starts Eight people, 2 trainers. 2days a week.
  Design of other courses completed Level 2 NVQ, Welding Level 1, Port Operations, Archive.
  Meetings with NALS Council Adult Learning Team
Oct 12 Level 2 NVQ starts Ten people, 2 trainers. 2 days a week.
Nov 12 Six week Level1 NVQ Starts  
Dec 12 Initial Invitations for Port Ops given out On-going throughout the period.
Jan 13 Port Operations course commences Spread over 5 months 2 learners at a time, 2 days a week.
  Six week Level 1 NVQ starts  
Mar 13 Six week Level 1 NVQ starts  
April 13 Seven week Welding course starts 8 people 2 trainers, 2 days a week
  Archive team build and training  
  Meeting with NALS  
May 13 Six week Level 1 NVQ starts  
12 July 13 End of project Party.  


The financial resources needed:

The financial outlay to set up and run engineering courses is considerable and not to be taken lightly. Without having secured most of the physical resources beforehand through other projects, this would have been a difficult project to set up financially. The broad financial implications are:

  • Workshop Space – You need around 180sqm of floor space with the appropriate wiring, heating and safety cut offs for machine tools. Dependant on where you are located, market rates will dictate the price of a lease. Anywhere from £5k to £20k a year plus VAT.
  • The equipment to set up a workshop varies immensely in quality and price. We would recommend medium quality hand tools for intensive courses, but definitely not basic stuff as it will break too often. Top price tools might prove too expensive in the long run and won’t last much longer than professional industrial quality tools. For machine tools, we would recommend the heaviest duty equipment you can afford, but definitely mid weight industrial tools as a minimum. Expect to have to part with at least £15000 to set up a wood based workshop and £8000 for welding, once you have the different rigs (Tig, Mig etc), screens, benches and PPE etc. We were lucky, we only had to buy 3 Mig sets to make up the 4 needed (1 between 2) and had got Tig sets through another grant. 
  • The cost of a welding course over 14 days can vary dependant on what metal you are working on. 
    • We used 3 mill sheet steel and stainless steel, cut into 10cm by 5 cm rectangles. We were fortunate to find a local fabricator (Tharsus) to cut and provide the large quantities we needed using their waste materials, as long as we returned it to put in their recycling and were able to interview the learners. 
    • If you are not a regular or high turnover user the Argon Gas can work out very expensive. Energas charged us £500! 
    • Disposables such as tungsten tips, gloves and filler wire all cost money. Remember you need different gas valves, gloves and types of filler wire for different types of welding and don’t get caught out and forget extra gas line to connect bottles to your sets (as the sets don’t come with the tubing). We spent £200.
    • The main cost of the course is a qualified NVQ assessor 1 day in 2 and a tutor for teaching time + 50% for prep and paperwork and these prices will vary regionally. We used freelancers for this project.
    • In total expect to pay over £6000 for your course after equipment set up and initial development and planning.
  • Beyond the workshop and equipment, running the NVQ level 2 is primarily tutor time again on the same ratios as the welding. An assessor half the teaching time and the tutor teaching time plus 50%. You need to be committed to between 70 and 100 days teaching time dependant on the student quality and the modules you choose. You can safely expect to budget £1000 for materials for a course of 8. The overall cost is likely to be over £15000 dependant on the local cost of tutors.
  • Port Operations is an extremely expensive, labour and capital intensive project. We were able to partner with an existing port training company, Port Training Services, a subsidiary of the Port of Blyth, which was able to rent out the fork lifts, cranes and tutors by the hour, so we did not need to find the millions required to set up. Because these were specialist professional tickets in Fork Lift and Crane’s, the overall cost was over £14000 for 10 people to gain the tutor time on the equipment to get the qualifications, of which £7000 is labour and £4000 is equipment and rest is registration fees, admin, fuel and development time.
  • Archive training is really only the cost of the trainer and their preparation time, but Archivists need large scale scanners, computers, voice recorders, digital cameras specialist wrapping paper that cuts out damp and UV light and archivists twine, as well as secure, dry places to store things and classroom sized areas with large tables to work on. Dependant on the number off sessions you need to run depends on the course costs. We used 10 days in development and delivery. Tutor costs can vary widely. We paid £250 a day. 
  • Marketing and administration cost were kept low for us because the recruitment into the courses was through the feeder course of the Level1. We have a simple flyer printed and send out a course start date poster and the rest is electronic, phone calls and visits, working through existing referral organisations who work with NEETS. We spent £650.     
  • Don’t forget you need to allow for management of your training operation and evaluation.      


Promotional Materials

We developed on flyer for the whole project which brings people in to our Level 1 course. 


Course Curriculums 

The courses we developed are benchmarked EAL qualifications and suing Port Training Services as an accredited provider, we simply used the module outlines presented by EAL via their web site: . It is also very hands on training with assessment done by video evidence that is stored against a learners folder on computer. Having set projects is also not an option as we work on real boats in real need of repair, so each individual has individual set projects on particular boats, and learns on their own particular trajectory (pretty much a 1to1 situation as a traditional apprenticeship would have been), so there is never repetition that could be recorded as a lesson plan and we used the modules that best fit the boats we had to repair at the time. Future courses working on future boats, might involve working with different modules.  

The courses and modules we used were:

  • AEL Level 2 NVQ Diploma Marine Engineering (QCF) Code 600/1031/9. We took the Pathway MEO: Yacht and Boat Building, Servicing, Maintenance and Repair, completing the Mandatory units and opting for:
    • QMEN2/116. Cutting and Shaping Wooden Components for Yachts and boats using hand tools
    • QMEN2/117. Cutting and Shaping Wooden Components for Yachts and boats using Machines.
    • QMEN2/121. Applying Surface Finishes to Yacht and boat wooden assemblies.
    • QMEN2/123. Carrying out Repairs to Yacht and Boat Components and assemblies. 
  • The Welding course was again simply taking the learners through the basics of setting up the equipment, health and safety and then practice over and over again with over the shoulder coaching to improve technique on different types of weld specified by the EAL qualification. We used: EAL Level 1 NVQ Certificate in Performing Engineering Operations (QFC), Code 600/8229/X, completing the mandatory units on day 1.
    • Tig Welding – QPEO1/016
    • Mig Welding – QPEO1/017
    • Plus half day meeting the management team of Tharsus, showing completed work and being set a supervised team skills task.
  • The Port Operations qualification involved linking together 4 elements of existing:
    • Health and safety – the local risk assessment of the port. Each port would have its own.
    • Health work and well-being – Local existing course through Port Training Services.
    • Fork Lift – NPORS Operator (Fork Lift Truck Operator) requiring a qualified instructor and assessor operating the standard syllabus. 
    • Crane – NPORS Operator (Slinger and Signaller) requiring a qualified instructor and assessor operating the standard syllabus. 
  • The Archive course was developed through a relationship between the Archivist and the volunteer team, discussing the challenges of the individual archive that they were working on in the Port and exploring the interests of the group and how they wanted to work together. There were no formal lesson materials, it was practical show and repeat learning.
    • Team building half day – The team were struggling to understand how best to work together and so we completed a 3 team tasks – Ice breaker including their experience, uncoiling a tangled loop of rope without letting go, agreeing some key aims  and targets to work towards. 
    • 3 Practical teaching sessions using the equipment we have and working on real archive materials:
      • How to catalogue on an Excel spread sheet. What to look for, the words to use and the level of detail involved. 
      • How to digitise items by scanning or photographing and link that to a catalogue item.
      • How to preserve items that have been catalogued using moisture and dust repellent paper.  
      • How to use a tape recorder for oral recollections, including open questioning and keeping quite.
      • A full day at the county archives, looking at how they operate and how to research to cross reference items in our archive with items in the wider world.     


Evaluation tools

  • We used a Pre and Post course focus group led by an external volunteer with experience in this field. He asked some basic questions which could also be used as a questionnaire (attached here) but because he was able to probe deeper gave us much more insight.
  • We used a short Post course questionnaire asking three confidence improvement questions (already shown) and asking what further courses they would like, as well as a free flow comments section which gave us quotes. 
  • Each course had daily learning evaluation and feedback required by EAL and NALS as part of the SFA funding requirements. 
  • We used an online questionnaire called ‘people gauge’ to measure some of our students overall engagement with us and also our volunteers. It uses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to measure engagement on a range of human needs and identifies opportunities to improve and areas of strength. It allows you to tailor questions to fit your particular organisation and was well received. I can’t recommend it enough. It would also allow you to collect data in hard copy (although this costs more) and it gives you a picture that shows the strength and type of words being used to describe their feelings about working with you.
  • We had on-going objective data about numbers passing courses and employment which we tracked by staying in touch with learners, as well as the hours given by volunteers. 
  • Finally we used case studies to highlight particular successes or hurdles we met along the way.       

Top tips for anyone wishing to replicate this project 

  • Have an existing infrastructure of workshops and training. This project is about inspiring progression and the outcomes of this and would be too much to do in one go from scratch.
  • Employ talented, experienced and highly skilled professionals to deliver specialist skills courses. They can work to a curriculum but flex it to the individual and the particular boats or facilities you may have.
  • Collect feedback as part of your standard practice so it becomes a part of your culture. 
  • Have high quality partners like EAL, Port Training Services and NALS.