A career as a boat builder

 14 April 2014

Alan Staley has dedicated his working life to building and repairing boats. He talks about taking the helm of his own business, Alan Staley Boatbuilders, and reflects on the impact of winning a Craft Skills Award.

"The money has gone on our trainees, providing them with a solid education and set of skills.” Image: Paul Felix

Like many craftspeople, Alan's journey into boat building began when he committed to doing an apprenticeship.

He set sail on a five-year, paid apprenticeship with a boat yard when he left school, which saw him serving as a shipwright and boat builder.

During this time, he learnt how to build wooden trawlers, fishing boats and racing dinghies, as well as how to repair boats.

Running a boat building business

Your reputation as a crafts expert is what sells your work.

After 13 years of working with the company that trained him up, he decided to start up on his own, setting up Alan Staley Boatbuilders.

Alan's business sees him work on up to six boats at a time, with each boat being a project that lasts between 6 and 18 months.

Winning a Craft Skills Award

In 2013, Alan Staley Boat Builders won the ‘Teaching skills in the workplace’ award at the Craft Skills Awards.

Being committed to passing on skills, Alan was delighted to win the award and has found it has had a positive impact when taking on trainees.

"Young people are now keen to work at the boat builders because they have heard about the awards and they know they will be trained by a reputable company."

Young people are keen to work at the boat builders because they have heard about the awards.

As a result of winning the award, Alan and his team attracted the curiosity of a filmmaker, and are now set to be featured in a film about boatbuilding in and around Kent. The film crew plan not only to feature Alan's workshop, but also the presentation that was made at the awards.

“We are particularly proud of this achievement as the film is being produced to encourage young people to think about marine-based craft careers.”

Helping young people get into boat building

The money from winning the award has gone towards a number of projects to promote the awareness of maritime craft.

For example, the team have been restoring a boat to display at the Faversham Maritime weekend and the Southampton Boat Show. The boat will also be taken to a careers fair in Dover, where Alan and his team will encourage young people to consider careers in boat building.

"The money has also gone towards training our trainees, providing them with a solid education and set of skills that they can apply to their future careers.”

Advice for working in boat building

Alan’s top tips for working in craft would be:

  1. Only start if you are really committed
  2. Don’t expect great success fast: you have to work towards it
  3. Dedicate time to your craft
  4. Everything you do should be aimed at selling yourself. Your reputation as a crafts expert is what sells your work.

The Craft Skills Awards are now part of the annual Creative & Cultural Skills Awards. Find out how to get involved.


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