A stitch in time

Posted on 28 Feb 2014 by The Manufacturer

To complement this month’s textiles sector focus TM takes a look at the newly launched Higher Apprenticeship in Fashion and Textiles framework.


For more information about the higher apprenticeship in fashion and textiles go to www.apprenticeships.org.uk or call 08000 150 600.

Also look out for news of National Apprenticeship Week, March 3-7.

This National Apprenticeship Service-led initiative will highlight best practice apprenticeship provision and celebrate the contributions of apprentices to British business.

To read TM’s March sector focus on UK textile manufacturing click here.

Last year, John Lewis committed to achieve 15% growth in its UK sourced textiles over two years.

The target will build on a ‘Made in UK’ brand at the high street retailer which totalled £480m in 2012.

Furthermore, John Lewis’s decision to bring more textiles and garment making back to the UK is not an isolated incident. Fashion retailers from high end names to budget buys like George at Asda have been reshoring – the changes have put pressure on supply chains used to long shipping periods to be much leaner and more responsive according to coat hanger manufacturer Mainetti (see bit.ly/Whatsuccesshangson)

They have also made it acutely obvious however, that the UK textile manufacturing industry has experienced a slump in skills and technical capability and there has been a rush in recent years to develop new training schemes and investment programmes in order to increase the sector’s competitiveness and seize the opportunity to gain business while it still lasts.

As Rick Mejia, MD of technical textiles manufacturer Milliken Europe points out in our lead interview, fashion retailer reshoring may yet prove to simply be a knee-jerk reaction to supply chain deficiencies and if UK firms cannot quickly develop the skills and capacity to service their demand the decision may not stick.

To protect against this, 2011 saw the launch of the first ever national apprenticeship scheme for fashion and textile apparel.

This lower level skills qualification, which charity Fashion Enter was instrumental in creating, has since been supplemented with more advanced courses and in November last year a level 4 framework for a higher apprenticeship in fashion and textiles finally came into being.

The framework was developed collaboratively by the Skills Funding Agency – the administrative end of the National Apprenticeship Service – the Textile Centre of Excellence in Huddersfield and the North West Textile Network.

A number of employers also had direct input including: ASOS, Camira Fabrics, Eveden, The Garment Studio, Henry Lloyd, New Look, Panaz, Rollington Knitwear and Westwood Yarn.

The higher apprenticeship framework takes a minimum of 18 months to complete and while some engineering and manufacturing employers may consider this insufficient – many commonly state that three years is the minimum time needed to train a capable and reliable employee – Michele Roberts, head of apprenticeships programme development at the Skill Funding Agency assures that all the employers involved are satisfied with the content.

“The framework is a combined qualification which requires apprentices to complete both a technical textiles pathway and a product development and sourcing pathway,” she explains. “Feedback from the employers involved in developing the framework indicates that they are satisfied.”

The Skills Funding Agency, alongside industry partners, is now seeking recruits to form the first wave of higher apprentices on the new framework.

“We have a target to see three hundred people enrol this year,” says Ms Roberts and so far, she is confident about the level of interest the framework is attracting.

To further raise awareness however, there are plans to create a ‘Sector in the Spotlight’ YouTube video to promote opportunities in fashion and textiles and increase understanding of the available qualification routes.

Sector in the Spotlight videos are created by the National Apprenticeship Service – SFA’s ‘shop window’ – and a number of videos already exist to promote apprenticeships as an entry route to careers including legal services, IT and creative industries.

A manufacturing Sector in the Spotlight video features input from apprentices at MBDA, BAE Systems and SMEs Warren Services and Berthen Boats which recently won sector skills council Semta’s SME Investment of the Year Award for its commitment to apprenticeships in the marine industry.

“The videos have proved a very successful way of raising awareness about different apprenticeship frameworks,” says Roberts.