UK fashion industry must bridge skills gap to bolster future of domestic manufacturing

The UK fashion sector must join forces across the value chain to tackle the shortage of manufacturing skills and help secure the future of domestic apparel production, writes GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Beth Wright, Apparel Correspondent for GlobalData, says: “The shortage of traditional apparel manufacturing skills such as pattern making, cutting, and stitching has been an issue threatening the sector for some time. If these skills are lost, the future of UK apparel manufacturing could hang in the balance.

“The arrival of Brexit has only exacerbated the problem by making it difficult for manufacturers to attract new talent – which typically comes from Europe – due to new entry restrictions which in turn curtails sector growth.”

One beacon of hope is a new project based in Leicester. A collaboration between Leicester City Council, skills training provider and manufacturer, Fashion-Enter Ltd, and local jerseywear maker, Ethically Sourced Products Ltd, the new Leicester Fashion Technology Academy (LFTA) will offer apprenticeships and accredited training in core fashion and textiles sector skills to equip the next generation of the industry’s workforce – helping to secure its future.

The vast majority of the UK’s apparel manufacturing skills have been lost since its heyday three decades ago as production moved offshore where prices were cheaper.

Another problem is that these skills are often overlooked in comparison to more appealing roles within design, yet they are the bedrock of apparel manufacturing.

Indeed, panellists on a recent webinar hosted by the Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) in partnership with e-learning platform Motif, agreed if the country is to have a stronger manufacturing foothold in both the textile and apparel industry, the desirability of such roles must be enhanced.

Wright adds: “Industry players from manufacturers to brands must unite with education providers to address the shortage of skilled workers and strive to do more to educate the future fashion workforce of the crucial value these skills have to the sector.

“We need to ensure these skills are fostered in our domestic production facilities to help boost UK manufacturing and safeguard the future of the sector.

“The UK has so much to offer as a garment manufacturing hub, especially post-Brexit. Projects like the new LFTA, which see sector players join forces with local authorities to help tackle the issue, are a sure-fire way to bolster the future of domestic fashion manufacturing.”

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