Exploring Apprenticeships with Industry Expert John West #NAW2023
Meet John West, Director of Skills and Training at UKFT. John has been playing an essential part in tackling the critical skills gap in the UK fashion and textile industry. His work in the skills sector was crucial to UKFT becoming the Sector Skills Body for fashion and textiles. John has extensive expertise in sector-specific skills development and delivery. He also managed various Sector Skill Council contracts, including the development of National Occupational Standards and Apprenticeship Frameworks across the UK. For the National Apprenticeship Week 2023, John explored various topics spanning how to make the most out of an apprenticeship and how to find a good apprenticeship.
UKFT has worked with employers and key stakeholders for many years, to support the development of fashion and textile apprenticeships in the UK. This led to the creation of better, up-to-date and comprehensive apprenticeship standards and frameworks. John said:
“Over the past 6 years, UKFT has worked hard to support our industry to create Apprenticeship Standards (England) and Apprenticeship Frameworks (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) that are employer led and fit for purpose.
All Apprenticeship provision is funded across the nations and available for enrolments via training providers. The main areas of job coverage are:
- Level 2 – Skilled Operative
- Level 3 – Skilled Technician
- Level 4 & above – Skilled Specialist”
A pathway into the fashion and textile industry
Because fashion and textile apprenticeships help to solve skills shortages and enable apprentices to gain in-demand skills, they are a great way to kick-start a career in the sector:
“Job vacancies are currently running at a high with many manufacturers citing recruitment as the number one priority. It takes a huge commitment for employers to take on an apprentice and with that comes loyalty. A very high percentage of our apprentices stay at their employer for many years and continue to develop their skills.
Enrolling onto a fashion & textile apprenticeship is not just a job but is a career in the industry.”
Investing in the future of apprentices
Taking on an apprentice is a huge responsibility and commitment. However, there is plenty of positive impact that apprentices can have on a business. Many apprentices do become full time employees after completing their apprenticeships:
“It may seem to be a big commitment in finding out how to employ an apprentice but there are organisations (like UKFT) who can advise on your journey.
Apprentices can bring new ideas and processes into a company and at the end of their training become a vital part of your team. Apprentices can help grow your capacity and not only address your skills needs now but also as people retire ensure succession planning for the future.”
How to find the right apprenticeship
Looking for an apprenticeship can be challenging, but there are several resources to help potential applicants find the right fit. John recommends:
- “Ask yourself: What do you like to do? Do you enjoy making things? Do you like working on your own or being part of a team? Don’t forget that doing something you like would be great as a job!
- Do your research based on what you like to do, search the apprenticeships on offer in your nation (check out the fashion and textile apprenticeships available in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
- Place your interest. You can resister your interest in apprenticeships, so if there are any current vacancies (or any new ones come up in the future) you will be notified.
- You can also explore the UKFT website, as some vacancies are listed on our site.
- Alternatively, check out the local Colleges or training providers in your region to investigate what is on offer.”
Making the most out of an apprenticeship
As apprenticeships are an important commitment both for the employer and the apprentice, it is essential to make the most of them. John said:
“To the apprentice: be yourself, polite, on time and have a willingness to learn and work. Your employer will teach you the rest. Enjoy your job and future career in the fashion & textiles industry.
To the employer: Work together, find out what works for both of you, so the apprenticeship is worthwhile for both parties. Support each other and the experience will be a positive one.”
Lastly, John gave his advice to potential applicants who hesitate to enrol on an apprenticeship:
“Don’t hesitate! The opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’ is great. Your training includes technical training at your place of work as well as away from your workstation gathering valuable knowledge about your role and the techniques used.”