Boiler and Engineering Skills Training Trust (BESTT), secures Heritage Lottery Fund

15 March 2017

Boiler and Engineering Skills Training Trust (BESTT),  secures Heritage Lottery Fund support of £622,200  to recruit 16 trainees to carry out mechanical overhaul of steam engines – rail, road and marine.

The Boiler and Engineering Skills Training Trust (BESTT), based in Bradford but operating across the UK, has received a grant of £622,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), under its Skills for the Future programme, for its project to extend syllabus based training for mechanical overhaul across the heritage steam sectors and widen their recruitment.

The project will enable sixteen participants to learn how to overhaul the mechanical components of steam locomotives, ships and road vehicles, working at a variety of steam heritage workshops across the UK. Trainee placements will last up to 15 months and lead to a specialist qualification.

Key features of the programme are to recruit a more diverse intake of trainees including  from areas of deprivation and high unemployment and to follow a tailored steam heritage syllabus, as pioneered by BESTT in its boilersmith training programme, also supported by HLF Skills for the Future.

The need for new skilled trainees is now critical in many parts of the steam heritage sector as the last generation who grew up with steam in daily service retire and the ability to maintain operational steam plays a key role in many leisure and heritage tourism operations, often major local employers.

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), said:

“There is no quick fix to this problem. The heritage sector has been slow in widening the profile of its work force and as a consequence is on a long-term learning curve. 

We wanted to build on the legacy of our existing targeted skills funding – £47m to date – and make a further financial commitment of just over £10m. Why? Because we know the Skills for the Future programme can drive successful and lasting change. It’s simple yet highly effective: trainees paired with experts gain access to knowledge plus practical, paid, on-the-job experience.”

Gordon Newton, Chairman of BESTT, said “We are delighted to have this further grant from HLF which will enable us to extend syllabus based training to a wide range of steam overhaul workshops across the UK and by widening our recruitment we are creating more sustainable support for heritage.”

Richard Gibbon, BESTT Technical Panel Member said “The syllabus based training with independent assessment which BESTT has pioneered for boilers has been shown to work and our mission now is to extend this to mechanical overhaul and create something which any steam repair workshop can adopt”.

Nick Ralls, General Manager, Severn Valley Railway said “The Severn Valley and another 5 railways who are partnering with BESTT on the training programme see this as  vital to our  future. It is part of showing young people that there is a satisfying job with good prospects in the steam sector”.

Notes to editors

  • First launched in July 2009, Skills for the Future is an HLF grants programme supporting organisations across the UK to develop vocational learning programmes.  HLF has awarded grants totalling £47m under this programme, enabling high-quality work-based training, the development of new heritage career pathways and qualifications, and capacity building work.
  • BESTT 's training programmes are breaking new ground; its Boilersmith training programme just completed (also supported by HLF Skills for the Future) has resulted in the first female trainee to undertake full foundation boilersmith training in 200 years.
  • Of the 16 trainees in the BESTT Boilersmith programme 12 have secured paid boilersmith employment in the sector and the remainder are self employed or  seeking this type of work.
  • The Severn Valley Railway is leading a group of railways each contributing £2,000 to the project. This group also  includes  the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the Mid Hants Railway, the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway, the Snowdon Mountain Railway and the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.
  • BESTT is supported by The Heritage Railway Association, The National Traction Engine Trust and the Maritime Heritage Trust.

About BESTT  

BESTT has come into existence, representing all steam sectors, to create a training programme to address the  shortage of skilled craftsmen who can repair and maintain heritage steam boilers. There are over 200 heritage centres in the UK where steam operations are an important feature and around 6,000 working or restorable boilers on railway locomotives, traction engines and road vehicles, ships and stationary engines. As a safety critical component, boilers require skilled manufacture, maintenance and repair.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.  For more information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF Press Office, on tel: 020 7591 6036/07973 613820.

For further information on BESTT and this project contact:

Gordon Newton (BESTT Chairman)  tel 01274 611418

Henry Cleary (BESTT HLF Project Director)  tel  0208 670 9247/07931 890483


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