Why UK Manufacturers Should Invest In Skills Training
20th September, 2018
First Corporate Clothing has been in the corporate wear business for over 20 years now and over time, we have seen the decline in machinist and design skills being passed on to newer generations. This isn’t only true of the garment world as the media suggests that all UK based manufacturers are reaching ‘critical levels’ when it comes to a shortage of skilled workers.
This is a serious concern for UK manufacturers who realise that skilled workers hired from the EU account for a significant proportion of the workers currently in place in the UK.
In post Brexit Britain we may find ourselves with fewer skilled employees, with less and less younger people available to fill their roles over time.
This is something we’ve seen first hand in our own business, as the machinist and design work is mostly carried out by older individuals.
To combat this, we decided to create a training line in our factory to pass on our vital expertise to the younger generation and to support British manufacturing in retaining it’s self reliance.
Working with the Welsh Assembly Government, we created a training line for a 6 week period that taught the trainees how to create full uniforms - blouses, skirts, jackets and dresses in fully fledged factory conditions, as well as individual training on each relevant factory machine.
The training also included these additional skills -
• Learning how to use and control the machines including the speed
• Machine maintenance including changing and using different feet
• How to change a needle and bobbin
• Seam work - straight seams
• How to change stitch sizes and why
• How to top stitch
• Zip insertion
• How to apply collars and sleeves to a garment
• Garment hemming
• Adding buttons including shank buttons and whipping
• Problem spotting and trouble shooting
• Learning about different fabrics and how to work with them
• Learn the best pressing techniques
So far, we have held a few of these training sessions and the results have already been incredibly impressive and rewarding. We’ve seen a variety of younger people take an interest with very different perspectives and goals in mind, such as creative people making bold and daring pieces to sell themselves or young mothers creating pieces for their children.
“When I started the course I have very little experience and hoped that the six weeks would provide me with what I needed.I thoroughly enjoyed the course! Everyone involved from managers, to course tutors and employees were so helpful and friendly. Nothing was too much trouble; they were willing to listen and answer my questions and I felt completely comfortable in the work environment.I had a chance to visit each of the departments within First Corporate Clothing, and from there I could decide exactly what it was I wanted to do.The employees were extremely patient and would both show us what they were doing whilst teaching us how to do it. I was also given contacts that would be able to provide me with resources and materials in the future.I would recommend this course to anyone and feel that I have learnt so much that I feel positive about my future ambitionsI have always had an interest in sewing and eventually would like to become self-employed as a seamstress.”- Joanne Thomas, May 2018
While training is available in most industrial professions as part of a new role, there are not many practical opportunities to train in specific areas and make your own choices about your employment from there on. Other routes such as vocational NVQ's are also not manufacturing specific, leaning more towards soft roles such as customer service and IT.
What made our training line different was that there was no expectation for our trainees to become employees - we would happily hire them but if someone took the course to become self employed (as many have), then we have been delighted to pass on the skills and encourage the future of the garment industry at home.
The long term reach of a project like this could significantly improve the longevity of UK garment manufacturing and with the general downslide that UK manufacturing has taken over time, we believe similar training courses should be considered by other UK based manufacturers.
With the unpredictability of Brexit looming over the next year coupled with the potential impact it could have for decades to come, it’s time that UK manufacturers put one foot forward, to protect and reinvigorate the integrity of British manufacturing and to ensure our grandchildren have, and pass on these vital skills.