Performance Through People apprentice Hannah Scoffham has been named Walsall’s first Young Leather Craftsperson of the Year, following in the footsteps of her saddler grandfather.
Hannah, aged 20, was inspired by an afternoon try-out with her grandfather Alf Peakman at Walsall-based Ideal & WRS Co, one of the world’s largest saddle makers.
She then switched from a health and social care course to an apprenticeship in saddlery at the town’s new Leather Skills Centre, co-run by Performance Through People (PTP), the local training specialist.
The Skills Centre – a converted town centre shop – is jointly run by PTP and the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, a City of London livery company tracing its roots back to the 11th century.
It offers a wide range of saddlery and leather-goods courses and apprenticeships to young people.
Alf, a master saddler, makes military saddles for the Household Cavalry and now has an able assistant in his own granddaughter working alongside him at Ideal & WRS,
Hannah, herself born and bred in Walsall, said: “I enjoy working with leather and it’s nice to have a job I want to go to when I get up in the morning.
“I love what I do and I’ve acquired so many skills at Ideal, where I’m learning how to make civilian as well as military saddles.”
Busy Hannah, who juggles work with caring for her younger brother, became the first Walsall apprentice enrolled on the Leather Craftsperson apprenticeship standard.
She is also learning a broader range of knowledge and skills at the training centre, which she then applies to work at Ideal & WRS.
Carolyn Stokes is operations director at PTP Training, which is part of the BCTG Group, an organisation which supports almost 10,000 young people and adults each year.
She said: “Hannah is the ideal choice as our first Leather Craftsperson of the Year – she is a superb example to other young people.
“She has never missed a day’s training, is always punctual, never watches the clock and works quietly and consistently.
“Hannah is a great role model and is supportive to the other learners with her quiet, caring way that sets a lovely tone in the workshop.”
Hannah was presented with her award by Mark Maffey, prime warden of the Saddlers’ livery company, as part of the Walsall Festival of Leather.
The festival, held last month, also saw the town centre Leather Skills Centre relaunched by leather restoration expert Suzie Fletcher – herself a master saddler and one of the team in a hugely popular BBC TV programme.
The festival also provided the opportunity for year 10 and 11 pupils from local schools to ‘have a go’ at leatherwork, learning about apprenticeships and career opportunities in the sector.