Apprenticeships as a pathway into bespoke cutting and tailoring careers #NAW24
During National Apprenticeship Week 2024, from 5 to 11 February, UKFT is highlighting the inspiring stories of employers and apprentices across the UK fashion and textile industry. Recently involved in the review of the Level 5 Bespoke Cutter & Tailor Apprenticeship Standards, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (ifATE), Lee Marsh, Holly Robins and The Tailoring Academy share their views on why updating apprenticeship standards regularly is essential to both the industry and apprenticeship. Scroll down to find out more.
As the Government-appointed Sector Skills Body for fashion and textiles, UKFT is responsible for apprenticeships in our sector. UKFT has been involved in the review of several apprenticeships this past year, including the recent review of the Level 5 Bespoke Cutter & Tailor Apprenticeship Standard. This review has helped ensure that the apprenticeship’s content, assessment and delivery still reflect the needs of the industry.
For this review, UKFT put together a new Trailblazer group of employers and collaborated with ifATE. The group featured leading British tailoring companies including Lee Marsh and Holly Robins, who understood the importance of reviewing the apprenticeship both for the industry and future apprentices.
The Tailoring Academy is currently the only training provider to offer The Level 5 Bespoke Cutter & Tailor Apprenticeship in England.
Kirsty Woollaston – ifATE’s Senior Product Manager, Brita Hirsch – Director of The Tailoring Academy, Lee Marsh – Owner & Creative Director of Lee Marsh Bespoke, and Holly Robins, Founder and Head Tailor of Holly Robins Bespoke, shared their views on the recent apprenticeship review.
“Apprenticeships are seen as a way of opening up a diverse pipeline of opportunity into sectors that can be difficult to reach which is mutually beneficial to the sector and those wishing to enter it.” Kirsty Woollaston (ifATE).
Creating a modern approach to tailoring
When she previously trained an apprentice under the former apprenticeship standards, Brita Hirsch (The Tailoring Academy) realised that an apprenticeship update was essential in offering a modern approach to tailoring. She explained:
“Having trained my own apprentice under the old apprenticeship standard, I was acutely aware of various gaps in the assessment plan. An example would be the lack of ‘pocket making’ as a learning outcome, which simply didn’t feature at all. Pocket making, as anyone in the industry will be aware, is a fundamental skill that every bespoke cutter or tailor must have under their belt. The absence of provision for this and further skills and knowledges is testament to the traditional approach taken on Savile Row, where such specialist jobs are being outsourced as piece work to this day.
In a modern work environment, where cutters and tailors are often working in a much smaller set-up or even on their own, every apprentice has to have the opportunity to acquire the whole skills set in the course of their apprenticeship. The contributions to the new standard from employers representing a broad range of businesses up and down the country has ensured that all relevant elements of the occupation are represented in the assessment plan. The new apprenticeship standard will empower employers to train their apprentices with a modern approach to our craft that respects its heritage but is fit for purpose in modern work environment at the same time.”
Apprenticeships as a pathway into tailoring
Holly Robins (Holly Robins Bespoke) believes that apprenticeships are the most effective way to learn the trade and secure a career in the industry. She commented:
“I’m really passionate about showing the next generation of tailors that there are ways into our industry that are accessible and not just through academic channels.
I truly believe an apprenticeship is the most effective way of learning our trade and securing a job once completed. I didn’t come to our industry in this way I went to university to study bespoke tailoring but once I had graduated and was next to a tailor everyday I wished I’d known about the apprenticeship scheme back then as I believe it would have suited me so much better and I have since trained a multitude of people who would also have been better suited to a full apprenticeship.
I believe currently there is a severe shortage of skilled hand finishers in particular, and that we actually have a shortage of skilled workers in every sector of our industry in both cutting and making roles as demand for the best suits in the world continues to grow our industry needs to grow to sustain the orders as demand is now worldwide.
I think if you’re passionate and willing to put in the work there are opportunities available. My business would benefit greatly from those taking up the apprenticeships as we look to continue to offer entry level jobs for those seeking to start their tailoring journeys in a maker’s atelier.”
“I’m really passionate about showing the next generation of tailors that there are ways into our industry that are accessible and not just through academic channels.” Holly Robins
Attracting diverse new talent into the sector
Kirsty Woollaston (ifATE) shared her experience of working on the revision of the Level 5 Bespoke Cutter and Tailor Apprenticeship standard alongside a Trailblazer group of employers including Holly Robins and Lee Marsh. She said:
“I work at IfATE (the institute for apprenticeships and technical education) as a senior product manager. My role is to work with employers and other key stakeholders to develop occupational standards. The the employer voice leads the development to ensure occupational standards work for, and across the breadth of the sector. Apprenticeships are seen as a way of opening up a diverse pipeline of opportunity into sectors that can be difficult to reach which is mutually beneficial to the sector and those wishing to enter it.
I have recently worked on the revision of the bespoke cutter and tailor standard. The employers in this group have worked tirelessly to ensure that the standard can work across the regions, for a range of employers and that the end point assessment is both accessible and reflective of what happens in the sector. The revision of this standard will attract a diverse range of new talent into the sector to ensure it continues to grow and flourish.”
Supporting the sector
Lee Marsh (Lee Marsh Bespoke) got involved in the Trailblazer group of employers in charge of reviewing the Level 5 Bespoke Cutter & Tailor Apprenticeship to support the sector and small businesses. He said:
“I wanted to be part of the solution to keep the industry going. I want to keep the traditional craft going and train local people to lead into employment.”
Lee Marsh is looking to address “Keeping skills for life that we can pass on to the next generation of apprentices.”
He said: “This will help grow the industry and small businesses like mine. I’ll be able to replace myself and train someone to do the production part of the business while I work on the business to grow it. Concentrating on getting customers and building the business.”
Click on the link below to find out more about apprenticeships in the UK fashion and textile industry: