Becky Treneer

Becky Treneer, SHTP2 Project Coordinator at National Historic Ships UK, talks to ICMM about the Shipshape Heritage Training Partnership project, a unique practical traineeship within the maritime heritage sector.

The Shipshape Heritage Training Partnership project offers the opportunity for a new generation to develop the vanishing skills and knowledge essential for maintaining, handling and conserving historic vessels. A total of 26 young adults over five years have learnt traditional maritime skills and gained the knowledge required to operate, conserve and maintain vessels within the maritime heritage context. The aim is for them to develop further skills and experience and eventually gain work within the sector.

The second phase of the project, known as SHTP2, is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to the sum of £424,900 as part of its ‘Skills for the Future’ programme, and runs until October 2020.

How did the SHTP2 project come about?

There was a realisation nationally in the UK that a range of traditional skills essential for maintaining, handling and conserving historic vessels were dying out, with an increasing age of workforce within maritime heritage. The Shipshape Heritage Training Partnership evolved to help address this issue, and encourage younger people to have the opportunity to learn, develop and practice these skills whilst working in a museum or operating vessel environment.

What does SHTP2 offer its trainees?

SHTP2 offers 12-month placements in museum shipkeeping and traditional seafaring roles across eight partner organisations. Each placement provides the skills and experience to help them seek a career within the maritime heritage sector. Trainees also spend time on other historic ships within the partnership through a rotation programme, which gives them the opportunity to explore other organisations, rigs, geographical areas and expand on their learning. We also offer further ongoing training and professional development courses, as well as masterclasses in relevant topics and visits to historical vessels and museums. At the beginning of the year, all trainees attend a comprehensive induction and spend between 6-12 weeks learning bespoke skills at the International Boatbuilding College in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

And how does the SHTP2 project benefit your partner organisations?

All of our partners have invested their time into this project and value the skills and opportunities the traineeship offers. Trainees become a fully integrated member of crew/staff and are involved in a full range of tasks on the vessels or in the museums they work on; including sail and repairs, sailing voyages, maintenance, curatorial and conservation projects to name a few. The practical skills and knowledge trainees gained are essential in keeping these vessels maintained and conserved for future generations. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve had to deal with since the SHTP2 project has been running?

An interesting question!

With any project involving multiple partners and people there are logistical and operational challenges, especially as all our partners are spread across the country, and have varying schedules and objectives. However, a good framework and understanding of each partner’s commitments and operations are essential, and a sense of humour has helped with ensuring no major problems occurred!

We unfortunately had a partner organisation unexpectedly cease operating, which meant finding and securing a new partner in a relatively short time frame. Despite all risk assessments and planning, you cannot foresee such events, but as with all dynamic projects, it’s important to look at the bigger picture and work to find a solution. This of course is time consuming, especially within a small team and with multiple factors to consider in line with the project objectives. It certainly helps having worked in the sector and on traditional vessels, which means I have an awareness of similar organisations’ operations, and can draw on a list of established contacts. I’m pleased to say that we have now found a new partner, and our trainees will start as normal in February with no disruption to the programme.

What aspects of the SHTP2 project are you most proud of?

The training and skills that people gain is incredible. There is no scheme similar to this and the value that it gives each person is great. 

Creating a framework for each individual and partner to develop specific skills and interest, training and opportunities both within and outside the partnership, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach is a key achievement that we have created. Providing trainees with the chance to meet people in the sector and try new things​ has benefited each trainee and allowed them to see first hand how they can apply their newly acquired skills and develop their interests. I’m proud to work with such enthusiastic and passionate young people who truly want to work in the traditional maritime sector, as this is infectious! Passing on skills, giving people opportunities and supporting trainees through the project are certainly some of the highlights. 

One of the most encouraging aspects is how much recognition, value and interest the SHTP2 project has gained across the wider sector. Many other organisations and vessel operators are keen to become involve and support what the programme offers, and for me that is a really positive step.

What are some of the trainees doing now? 

Trainees have gone on to work in a range of role including skippers, mates and bosuns, and on a range of traditional vessels. One trainee skippered pilot cutter Jolie Brise on a transatlantic voyage, whilst two trainees opted for professions as riggers and have worked on the Cutty Sark, HMS Warrior and HMS Trincomalee. Others have chosen routes as curators or in conservation. Trainees have gained employment at the T. Nielsen boatyard, Excelsior Trust, TS Rigging, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Royal Yacht Britannia, and the National Museum of the Royal Navy, to name a few.

This is the final year of the SHTP2 project. What do you think will be its legacy? 

The project has established a solid framework of the skills and knowledge required across the traditional maritime heritage sector. Practical workbooks and learning outcomes have proven key in understanding the needs and skills gaps. We will create learning films of the traineeship and a comprehensive evaluation of the project, with a final report to be produced.

Partners are highly supportive in continuing the programme, and the value that it offers. Additionally, interest from organisations outside the project has been strong and other vessels keen to become involved. Exactly how this will take place, is the question! We are in the process of gauging interest and levels of funding to ensure the future of the programme and would value any suggestions from the heritage and traditional maritime community. I believe it is essential to keep these skills alive, encouraging younger people and ensuring the future of historic vessels in the UK maritime heritage sector.

Thank you, Becky!

Read more about the Shipshape Heritage Training Partnership