THEY work on some of Britain’s finest pieces of maritime history – ensuring bygone iconic memories are not forgotten.
Based in the heart of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) restores, builds and maintains boats through its unparalleled array of skilled teachers, students and volunteers.
The IBTC, now owned by Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, has thrived since it was taken over last year by the new organisation. The IBTC’s predecessors have been involved in a legal dispute over restoration work of the Lively lady yacht.
Located in a giant warehouse in the dockyard, known as Boathouse 4, the team work tirelessly on vintage boats ranging from the 1880s through to classic vessels from the Second World War and First World War. Once restored, they are then shipped off to be used in exhibitions around the UK and world.
Working on vessels such as MGB 81 – known as the spitfire of the sea – to an armed steam cutter, supporting HMS Falmouth in the battle of Jutland in the First World War, those working on the vessels cannot ignore the overwhelming awe of history they are immersed in on a daily basis.
Students of all abilities are put through their paces by world renowned trainers that help them carve out shipwright careers all over the world.
The wide variety of skills taught, though, mean many students have their pick of wood craft careers once they complete the one-year course. Many go into a diverse range of careers including, for example, green frame timber construction and furniture making.
Peter Goodship, chief executive of the trust, said: ‘The learning experience students get is amazing as they get to work on prestigious projects you could not get to work on anywhere else.
‘Since we took the college over we have become among the first choices for boat building in the UK. The skills learnt here allow people to go into a range of careers afterwards, not just boat building.
‘We have many people who go into careers where they restore historic buildings, make furniture or cabinets. But many others start their own businesses once they have finished the year long course.’
Volunteers also benefit from working at the Boathouse 4 location with many gaining skills helping them learn new skills or to give them the opportunity build their confidence and provide a way into work. ‘There are a lot of transferable skills learnt here such as team building skills as well as wood work skills,’ Peter said.
Oscar Rodriguez, 35, came over from Spain to do the course. He said: ‘I only had basic wood-making skills when I came over here but now I can do so much more. I now have the skills to go and work for a good company in the UK.’
Barnaby Shepphard, head of training, said: ‘It’s a fast and intense course that is run how things are in the industry so when students are finished here they are ready to work in the real world. They get training that is second-to-none. We also have the highest ratio of instructors to students in the UK.’