The Workshop - Paul Parmenter

An experienced design and technology teacher who has also worked in industry, Paul Parmenter set up The Workshop in Aberfeldy, Perthshire in June 2014 with funding and business support from Firstport.

The Workshop in Aberfeldy exists to help people develop confidence and learn craft and design skills, with the aim of supporting people in Highland Perthshire into employment or further training. Working with the local community, they make products that make changes in people’s lives.

Open to everyone, The Workshop has a particular emphasis on people under 25 years of age, and those facing additional barriers to employment. Since launching in 2014, 75% of their trainees are under 25, and 50% have some kind of additional support needs or rehabilitation needs.

The Workshop is a safe environment for trainees to gain self-confidence and interpersonal skills at their own pace while learning practical manufacturing skills including engineering, laser-cutting and woodworking. They manufacture a range of products, including medals, gifts and a range of bespoke products.

One success story is 16-year-old Connor, who was disengaged with school and started at the Workshop doing two days a week work experience. He proved such an asset to the business that Paul was able to offer him a positive destination which allowed the teenager to leave school. Paul explained: "Connor came to us to do woodwork but I felt it was better that he tried everything. He made such a success of his first task – welding steel racking for a local events company – that he effectively paid for the first six months of his employment. He has been so enthusiastic and eager to learn."

Connor started off doing metalwork but has since learned other skills including joinery and laser-cutting and wants to pursue a career in welding. He said:

I was fed up with school. Coming to the Workshop made such a difference. I had always wanted to do something hands on and see the results first-hand. Coming here really hit the nail on the head. It showed me what coming to work was actually like and I now know what I want to do.

The Workshop has also helped to diversify the local economy, bringing manufacturing back to rural Perthshire, enabling local businesses to purchase a range of reasonably priced products from a local service while also supporting a good cause.

Paul received a Start It award from Firstport in 2014 and subsequently a Build It award to help grow the business in 2015. He was accepted onto the LaunchMe programme in 2017, Scotland’s only social enterprise accelerator programme, delivered by Firstport.

As a result of taking part in LaunchMe, the Workshop recently received a £128,000 funding boost. They received £64,000 in investment - £39,000 from private investors and a further £25,000 from Social Investment Scotland - combined with £64,000 in match funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

Paul said: "The funding will enable us to more than double our current production capacity, as well as developing new product ranges and offer training on different machinery. This will widen our training, making it more relevant to more careers, and enable us to support more young and vulnerable people into training and employment."