As the grinding wheel comes to a standstill and the dust starts to settle it becomes readily apparent that the lustrous smile behind the mask is yet another ambitious aspirant of the Berthon Apprenticeship program. First year apprentice Tayler Lightbourne is an 18 year old female who recently decided to combine her passion for boats, design and building by embarking on the shipwright scheme here at Berthon.
Glancing across the workshop floor it is evidentially clear that Tayler is both an occupational minority and a numerical rarity in her chosen profession as she is currently the only female on the Shipwright Apprenticeship Scheme. One would immediately assume that this could be rather intimidating for most but she is eager to praise her fellow apprentices and mentors when it comes to making her feel part of THE TEAM.
Tayler immediately presents herself as an ambitious and more confident female, especially with grinder in hand! She is forthcoming in admitting that before arriving at the BIG BLUE SHEDS, she was far from confident and unsure of her future. Today, however, Tayler has a direction, a focus and importantly an opportunity to become a highly skilled craftswoman in an industry where such raw talent is lacking and yet so eminently desirable.
As part of the apprenticeship scheme, committed and skilled shipwrights mentor Tayler and her fellow apprentices throughout each day in the provision of technical guidance, support and positive reassurance. In shipbuilding, hand carved scarf joints create strong connections in ships; at Berthon they go one step further in building strong, interlocking connections with people too! What is immediately striking about the apprentices here is the way in which they engage with her peers. We can all recall a time in our lives where we were given training and encouragement to do something for the first time; whether it was to tie our shoelaces, ride a bike or drive a car. Tayler begins to beam with pride as she tells me about one of her most treasured memories involving the completion of an insulation task on one of the RNLI projects. As she reels off every single detail of the project, from procedures she had to follow to the machinery she used it becomes readily apparent that this was a mammoth task for a Year 1 apprentice. Undeterred by the challenge, she persevered and put the skills she had been taught to the test ultimately achieving the highest possible accolade she could ever have wished for from her mentors.
Surely no other such opportunity gives a more rounded approach to learning such a highly skilled trade and if there was ever an example to lead by, Tayler is a pretty good start having already saved enough money for a new car whilst combining work with college. Despite only being in her first year it is rather impressive that this young lady is already developing the personal qualities of a good shipwright in technical understanding, spatial ability and dexterity. Her ability to display competence in a diversity of shipwright skills is remarkable as is her proficiency in the safe use of machinery and hand/power tools as I discovered when she nimbly starting working a piece of timber with a chisel craftily selected from her rather dashing tool chest. As any high end tool enthusiast will tell you, a chest filled with Snap-On tools is a lifetime investment and it would appear that Tayler has once again chosen wisely by investing in her future…. even if they do have bright PINK handles!!!!
What is evidentially clear on the workshop floor is that this is a thriving and motivated community. The apprentices are enthusiastic and engaged, this is not just about teaching a younger generation how to become highly skilled craftsmen and women, it is about creating deep rooted foundations in their lives to help them develop as individuals and give them the confidence to embark on new opportunities.With a glint in her eye and a proliferating smile embellished across her face, Tayler leads on to tell me that in 2 days time she is off to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle having been selected by her mentors at Berthon to crew onboard “GREY WOLF”, a FPB 64 motor yacht. Like 6 of her fellow apprentices last year, in the forthcoming weeks, Tayler will explore a part of the world and experience situations very few will encounter in a lifetime all thanks to the apprenticeship scheme.
Find out more about marine apprenticeships at Berthon