The Engine Shed is a social enterprise that helps young people with learning disabilities gain skills in a real work environment and supports them to move into mainstream, paid employment. Trainees work alongside staff in our vegetarian café, organic bakery, organic tofu production unit and conference centre and help deliver a great service to customers while developing skills for life. We think our young trainees are extra special and pride ourselves on the quality of everything we do.
The Engine Shed was established in 1989 as an innovative training project for people with learning disabilities to help them improve their confidence, learn transferable skills in a real work environment and move into paid employment within mainstream workplaces.
We achieve these objectives through operating as a social enterprise, this model providing the working and learning environment for our trainees.
The philosophy that supports our work is based on the principles of Rudolf Steiner whose approach to human psychology and development highlights the uniqueness of each individual, whatever their situation.
The Engine Shed’s core purpose is to address the vocational needs of people with learning disabilities who have the potential to move into mainstream work. Although we can take anyone aged between 16 and 60, the majority of trainees are below 25.
Training is for up to three years. It starts with a period of full-time work at the Engine Shed, followed by part-time placements with mainstream employers alongside ongoing training at the Engine Shed. Most stay for the full three years, when they move into full-time paid employment.
The businesses operating at the Engine Shed include a vegetarian cafe, organic bakery, organic tofu production, outside catering and conference/ catering facilities.
The Engine Shed developed from the work of the Garvald Centre in Edinburgh, a community based on the principles of Rudolf Steiner, which provides a supportive living and working environment for people with learning disabilities. Back in the late 1980's, trustees and staff of Garvald Centre felt there was a need for a more training and work oriented project to help young people achieve greater economic and social independence. To cut a long story short, Garvald Centre secured a three year funding package to develop the idea, and employed a development worker and part-time administrator to get it going. Their task was to set up a 'sister' organisation, focussed on training and employment, which would become a separate company and fully independent of Garvald Centre.
Finding a Home
The first task for the new staff was to identify suitable accommodation for the project and this came in the shape of an old 'Engine Shed'. Built in the 1830's for repairing and maintaining trains, the building was then owned by Lothian Regional Council and had been derelict for years. The Regional Council renovated the building on behalf of the project and, partly thanks to the excellent architects, it was completed to a very high standard. The finished building included a fully equipped kitchen and café, bakery workshop, offices and meeting rooms. Over the decades since then we have updated and added to these facilities but in all essentials it has remained the same.
The Engine Shed is a striking building which has helped create a unique identity for the organisation. Although our formal name is Garvald Community Enterprises, everyone knows and refers to us simply as 'The Engine Shed'.