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Promoting fashion and textile careers to young people


UKFT was at the Skills Yorkshire Show earlier this month with Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (the LEP) as part of the FutureGoals creative zone, to help tackle the critical skills shortage in the UK fashion and textile industry and attract new talent into this thriving sector.

The association had a pop-up factory, where students could try out using an industrial sewing machine, as well as learn more about the size and breadth of the industry, potential career paths and job roles. Local training provider Keighley College was present to showcase its range of courses, including apprenticeships, alongside local employers such as Burberry, which are keen to raise the profile of career opportunities available nearby.

“The industry has an ageing workface and a shortage of new people coming into the sector,” said Celia Thornley, skills and training manager at UKFT. “Young people aren’t looking to our industry for jobs but it is mainly because they are not aware of the diversity of the sector and the wealth of career opportunities that exist.”

UKFT was on hand to promote the thriving industry in Yorkshire, with a range of career paths that can offer international opportunities as well as jobs where people can progress closer to home.

“We are a textiles business here in Yorkshire and we need new skills coming into the business,” explained Richard Mason, senior manager for the Burberry Foundation’s responsibility programme. We wanted to showcase how many jobs there are available within the creative sector and textiles, which is perhaps misunderstood by a lot of young people and teachers. We have to bust some of those myths and showcase some of the opportunities that there are.

“We have a mill in Keighley and a factory in Castleford,” he said. “We want the young people to know what kind of opportunities there are in their communities.”

UKFT was also promoting a range of new apprenticeships which have been developed over the last two years and span job roles including fashion studio assistant, garment maker and textiles technical specialist.

Yorkshire-based Camira Fabrics, which designs and manufactures commercial contract textiles for a wide range of end uses, was also present to raise awareness of the career opportunities it offers. Alex and Corey, two former apprentices, were at the event to talk about their experiences of undertaking an apprenticeship in the UK textile industry.

Alex Rank, a warp preparation technician, said: “It’s always been stressed to us that we can always move up if we are prepared to put the work in. There are always people retiring and we are gaining that knowledge so they want us to progress.”

Over the two-day event, UKFT invited young people to have a go on the sewing machines and construct a simple phone case. Many said they didn’t know much about careers in the industry, didn’t learn a lot about it at school and wanted to hear more. More than 100 people signed up to receive updates on available opportunities in their local area and the new apprenticeships.

Read more about UKFT’s skills and training activity here.