While companies like ASOS have been offering courses in how to cut, sew and stitch at the Stitching Academy, in collaboration with local social enterprise Fashion Enter, garment manufacturing industry in the UK is facing severe shortage of skilled workers.
Sourcing from low-cost manufacturing countries like China and India has negatively impacted the UK industry. The number of jobs has fallen from about 800,000 in 1980 to 100,000 today. Now, realizing the need of the hour, several companies are trying to tackle the skills gap. Last month, Fashion Enter announced plans to launch a Fashion Training Academy in January, after securing £570,000 of funding from Haringey Council. The academy will train around 3,000 people over the next five years, with the capacity for 1,620 places a year by 2019. It will teach from the basic ‘level 1’ of the stitching academy to level 5, providing trainees with haute couture manufacturing skills.
Also, the Fashion Retail Academy, an industry-backed school, has introduced a garment technology course to teach skills including machining and pattern cutting. It had previously concentrated on areas such as fashion buying and merchandising. Mulberry, the luxury bag-maker too, is trying to deal with the ageing skilled workforce. In 2005, half of its employees were over the age of 50, while 13 per cent were past the state retirement age.
The company launched a programme with Bridgewater College in southwest England, training 300 new employees for its second UK factory, which opened in Bridgewater last year.