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Updated Sewing Machinist Apprenticeship to expand talent pipeline #NAW2024


To boost the number of skilled sewing machinists in the UK, employers and training providers have worked together to revise and enhance the Level 2 Sewing Machinist apprenticeship programme.

Led by UKFT, the trailblazer group included leading names including womenswear manufacturer David Nieper, interiors and upholstery specialist Plumbs, hot air balloon manufacturer Cameron Balloons, North Lancs Training Group (NTLG), the Textile Centre of Excellence and Bridgwater & Taunton College, supported by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE).

The review, prompted by the underwhelming enrolment figures despite soaring demand for sewing machinists across various sectors, aimed to streamline the apprenticeship programme and bolster participation. Since its approval for delivery in August 2018, only 69 individuals had commenced training by June 2023, a stark contrast to industry projections which anticipated several hundred enrolments.

Recognising the need for intervention, the consortium worked alongside IfATE to broaden its scope to be relevant for a wider set of businesses, simplify the standard and streamline the End Point Assessment methods associated with the apprenticeship.

Diane Wilford, Senior Product Manager at IfATE, praised the collaborative effort, highlighting the incorporation of insights from recently graduated apprentices like Gemma from David Nieper, to offer real-life experience to improve the apprenticeship and ensure it meets the needs of the industry today.

Celia Thornley, UKFT’s Skills and Training Manager, emphasized the critical need for changes to the apprenticeship to boost take-up from the sector. She said: “We quickly realised that existing funding bands failed to cover delivery costs, which prevented both training providers and employers from engaging with the apprenticeship. Often sewing machinists were being trained under the Lean Manufacturing Operative Apprenticeship, which was not tailored to the needs of the role, so put the learners and employers at a disadvantage.”

As a result of the review, IfATE endorsed the revised assessment method and approved a funding band increase from £4,000 to £8,000 per learner, acknowledging the need to align funding allocations with delivery costs while maintaining quality standards.

Michelle Anderson, Trainer/Assessor at Bridgwater & Taunton College, explained the significance of adapting the apprenticeship to suit diverse company needs, particularly in regions like the South West where sewing companies face challenges in accommodating apprentices.

She said: “Within the South West, we lack sewing companies who are keen to take on apprentices. Quite a few are SMEs and do not have the time to oversee an apprentice or lack the mentor in place to teach the apprentice.

“The revisions will mean the apprenticeship is better suited to a wider variety of companies – growing the number of Sewing Machinist Apprentices will be beneficial for everyone,” she added.

Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT, hailed the revised apprenticeship and the increased funding as a catalyst for the growth of the sector, particularly in light of the evolving job market and the increasing need for skilled workers. “This will provide a much-needed boost to the manufacturing supply chain here in the UK,” he said. “It’s a step towards reinvigorating our talent pipeline of skilled sewing machinists and fostering sustainable growth across the sector.”

For more information and access to the updated apprenticeship programme, visit the link provided below.

Level 2 Sewing Machinist


Click on the link below to find out more about apprenticeships in the UK fashion and textile industry: