Build a Bench

Build a Bench (BBO) is a fully funded, 12-week programme aimed at people who are not currently in any kind of paid work and who live in Telford and Wrekin, and Shropshire. It provides a unique opportunity to take part in weekly green wood craft sessions combined with supportive action planning sessions at the Green Wood Centre in Coalbrookdale, near Ironbridge.

The project provides an amazing opportunity for people to develop new skills, grow in confidence, meet new people and develop their resilience. It is suitable for all abilities and no previous wood-craft experience is required. As Build-a-Bench is an outcome-focused course, it aims to prepare people for progression into employment, self-employment, accredited learning and/or volunteering. Participants must therefore be willing to undertake the craft activity and engage in action planning and progress reviews focused on taking steps towards moving into employment, self-employment, accredited learning and/or volunteering.

Initially, participants learn basic skills, including carving a simple spatula and spoon from a piece wood, making a three-legged stool and simple weaving techniques. The group is encouraged to work together and use their new skills to build a community bench which is donated to a local organisation of their choice.

The project is one of SWA’s Social Forestry initiatives which helps reduce social isolation, builds confidence and self-esteem. Its concept and format has proven to be a great success which we hope to support and train others to deliver across the UK.

Build a Bench is part of the Building Better Opportunities project, which brings together funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund (ESF) to help tackle the poverty and social exclusion faced by the most disadvantaged people in England. Run in conjunction with The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the project aims to provide pre-employment support within Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin for disadvantaged people aged 19 and over who are not in work.