Apprentices vital thread in tapestry of industry

As companies across the UK celebrate the tenth annual National Apprenticeship Week, luxury fashion house, David Nieper, explains how apprentices have always played a vital role throughout its 55-year history.

National Apprentices Week - Moira Guest, dressmaker, David Nieper.
Moira Guest, dressmaker, David Nieper.

David Nieper has a strong culture of prioritising skills and training to allow specialist manufacturing skills to be passed from experienced staff onto the young generation. Reflecting this, it has announced a commitment to further expand its Sewing Academy with up to £500,000 to be invested in training new apprentices over the coming three years.

In the sewing rooms, the longest serving member of staff is Moira Guest a highly skilled dressmaker and a living, breathing example of the success story of apprentices at David Nieper.

Guest started her career as an apprentice in 1969, when her headteacher found her a position as junior machinist at the David Nieper fashion house. At the age of just 15, she started work in a team of 20 dressmakers in an old Nissan hut in Alfreton, a far cry from David Nieper’s modern sewing rooms and 250+ staff working on the same site today. However, some things never change and Guest still uses the same skills she learnt during her apprenticeship in her work every day.

She explained: “The best way to learn is from other people and have your work critiqued. You can read a book or be instructed a hundred times – but you need to actually do the job, make mistakes and have someone with more experience assess your work, then you never forget.

“I still use the same skills that I learnt as an apprentice in my everyday work – lockstitch to hem cotton and cross stitch to attach lace detail onto nightwear, it’s just become second nature to me.

“Working with skilled people right from the very start means you don’t develop any bad habits and ensures that whatever you are making is done to the highest standards.  I am now very critical about how everything is made from clothes to household goods; I can’t help but examine how it is put together. There is nothing more satisfying that seeing the garment you have made hanging in a show room or looking beautiful on a customer.”

Managing director of David Nieper, Christopher Nieper commented: “Our business has been built on apprenticeships and from highly skilled people like Moira learning and then passing on their specialist skills to the younger generation.

“Our experienced supervisors most of whom have been with us for over 20 years do an excellent job in keeping quality standards high so that our young apprenticeships learn best practise.”

“In addition to passing on skills, apprenticeships are also the best way to develop relationships – many big organisations run mentor schemes in the workplace, however with an apprenticeship this relationship between trainer and trainee naturally develops creating a productive environment in which to learn.”