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Leather Skills Industry Boosted By £10,000 In Grants From Walsall Business Support
The world-famous leather skills industry in Walsall has been boosted by £10,000 in grants from Walsall Business Support, which was launched to help grow business and skills in the town.
A centre teaching the next generation of saddle, bridle and leather-goods makers has received £5,000 to purchase new tools from Walsall Business Support. Specialist equipment is being bought for learners at Walsall Leather Skills Centre, in The Bridge, following the contribution.
A second Walsall Business Support grant of £5,000 will go to The Equine Fitters Council to administer and operate a new directory of Equine Fitters, which is being launched to improve standards. Having developed a new set of occupational standards, plus a code of conduct and professional practice, the Equine Fitters Council will provide listings for businesses which meet the required levels.
Walsall Business Support presented the funds to the beneficiaries at the Leather Skills Centre last Friday and met the learners who are growing their skills. Also represented were The Worshipful Company of Saddlers and the Ladder Foundation, which promotes apprenticeships, along with Cllr Rose Martin, Mayor of Walsall.
The Leather Skills Centre opened in 2020 to create jobs in the high-quality leather businesses upon which Walsall’s reputation has been based for centuries. The centre is run by the Saddlers Company Charitable Fund, the principal charity of the Worshipful Company, which traces its roots back to the 11th Century, with Midlands-based training company Performance Through People.
Formed by leading local business figures to distribute funds collected from the legacy of Walsall Chamber of Commerce, Walsall Business Support provides grants to applicants who want funding for projects to enhance business life in the borough.
Cllr John Murray, Chairman of Walsall Business Support, said: “Our aim is to improve life and opportunity for as many Walsall people as possible so the grant for new equipment for Walsall Leather Skills Centre was a deserving project to receive our support. We offer grants for businesses looking to bring growth, skills and employment to the borough of Walsall, so with the local pride in the history of leather skills in Walsall we were pleased to fund the tools needed by the next generation of learners and support the new directory of Equine Fitters.”
Lucy Atherton, Prime Warden of The Worshipful Company of Saddlers, received the grants on behalf of the beneficiaries. She said: “The generous support of Walsall Business Support will contribute to ensuring our industry has the skilled saddlery professionals it needs, both to make and fit saddlery, well into the future. The Equine Fitters Directory will encourage higher standards of saddlery fitting through voluntary regulation.”
Catherine Morris, Trade, Equestrian and Charities Advisor to the Worshipful Company, added: “Good saddle fit is central to the welfare of ridden horses. Saddle fitters come to Walsall for well-designed and expertly made saddles to meet the needs of the horse and rider. The donations mean we can inform more people about the Equine Fitters Directory and voluntary regulation, while furnishing trainee leather workers with the high-quality tools they need.”
Walsall Business Support can provide grants and a free training needs analysis to businesses looking to generate growth, create employment or shape training opportunities for the borough of Walsall. Using an online application form on the WBS website, bids for financial support can be submitted by businesses needing investment in a new project or a company wanting to improve skills.
Board member Rob Colbourne, the CEO of Performance Through People, said: “The new directory, along with the specialist tools and other resources paid via the grant to The Worshipful Company of Saddlers and Equine Fitters Council, will ensure that the centre trains apprentices to the highest standards so that Walsall’s reputation for high quality leather products continues to grow.”