40 Years of Transforming Women's Lives
In 1982 two local women, Rita Cordon and Liz Cousins, were both concerned with the lack of opportunities for women, particularly Black women, in education.
Together with a group of likeminded women, which included our former CEO Claire Dove CBE and Management Committee Member, June Henfrey, they made an application to the European Social Fund and Liverpool City Council to fund a fulltime course for 30 women. The course was designed to include realistic vocational training in electronics, computing, maths and women’s studies. It also incorporated work experience placements with local employers to ensure that training reflected local employers needs.
Underpinning the application was a set of fundamental principles; that women had the right to work and needed quality training to ensure success; and that training should be in a safe environment that recognised their specific needs.
The application was granted and so the Women’s Technology Scheme was founded, a totally new venture offering unique training opportunities for the women of Merseyside.
The Women’s Technology Scheme (WTS) was incorporated on 6th April 2983. Originally based in the Merseyside Centre for Employment Initiatives, the organisation ran a series of taster courses whilst awaiting the refurbishment of offices in the Merseyside Trade Union Community and Unemployed Resource Centre on Hardman Street.
In 1984 the WTS moved in new premises in the Trade Union Centre and recruited its first cohort of 30 students. As the need and demand for courses increased it was necessary to find a new home and in 1994 WTS entered a new and exciting phase in its history with the move into the newly refurbished and newly opened, Blackburne House.
This magnificent Grade II listed building underwent a £4 million refurbishment, designed by Architects, Gladys Martinez and Maggie Pickles. In 1995, Blackburne House was one of three buildings to win the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awards.
The move to Blackburne House prompted a change in the legal framework to enable the organisation to implement innovative ways in which social enterprises can be used to support our educational aims and provide tangible examples of how new markets can be used to benefit local communities. It saw the opening of an onsite nursery, conference and events facilities, a bistro and a wellness space, all of which enable us to provide a holistic approach to supporting women in education.
From being the first Women’s Voluntary Organisation to gain accreditation to offer a BTEC National Certificate in Electronics to being awarded Beacon Status as an outstanding provider of education, Blackburne House has changed the face of education for women.
Our work to break down barriers to education for women, has received multiple awards including being awarded Freedom of the City of Liverpool in June 2015.
Since our formation, we have transformed thousands of women’s lives and are now working with second and third generations of women from families across the Liverpool City Region.
Our founding principles continue to underpin our work and will continue to do so as we the organisation grows to meet the needs of local woman and communities.