Stitch Society addresses textiles skills shortage

The textiles group will move its Halifax nonwovens business, Texfelt, to a newly built facility at Cutler Heights, with a focus on creating recycled textile products for a range of industry sectors.
The textile industry is worth around £9bn to the UK economy, and generating year-on-year growth.

Textile manufacturer, The Stitch Society has partnered with a West Yorkshire college to launch a textile academy in the hope of providing much sought-after sewing skills to the burgeoning textile and fashion industry.

The Stitch Society, an emerging new textile brand founded two years ago, has launched a new textile academy at Keighley College thanks to a £30,000 investment from the Textile Growth Fund

The textile industry is worth around £9bn to the UK economy, and generating year-on-year growth. According to government predictions, the sector could generate somewhere in the region of 15,000 new jobs by 2020, largely being driven by sourcing fabrics and apparel from the UK becoming ever more attractive, in terms of quality and competitive costs.

However, the growth risks being undermined by a significant skill shortage; an issue which urgently needs to be addressed if the nation is to repatriate and capitalise on future demands. In the biggest study of the textile industry, for more than 20 years, the government identified West Yorkshire as the most condensed area for textile manufacturing in the UK.

Head of Business Engagement at West Yorkshire’s Keighley College, Chris Stott explained: “There is huge potential to create job opportunities for young people as local manufacturers and retailers look to increase capacity. The Textile Academy will ensure the industry in the region continues to thrive by providing a talented source of technically experienced workers.

“The government’s Alliance Report identified a disparity between the textile industry and educational institutions. We have engaged with manufacturers and worked closely with The Stitch Society to address the real skill-set needed in the market and developing a first-class apprenticeship scheme to match them.”

From its studio at the World Heritage Salts Mill in Saltaire, once the heart of the world’s textile industry, The Stitch Society has woven history with e-commerce to produce a collection of designer aprons, apparel and accessories.

The firm’s founder, Charlotte Meek commented: “There is a definite resurgence in Yorkshire’s textile industry and the need for an academy that will equip the market with talented, creative, people who are passionate and understand the full technical process. Graduates will be anything but ‘run off the mill’ when they step onto the shop floor of a local textile manufacture or design house.”

West Yorkshire’s reputation and prosperity is founded on its rich heritage of textile manufacturing, indeed its skyline reflects the impact the industry has had upon its landscape. Despite competition from overseas production, the region’s most respected mills have continued to produce the lions-share of British fabric, still sourced by fashion houses and designers throughout the world.