With the improving performance of the UK fashion and textiles manufacturing sector, an increasing number of opportunities are presenting themselves. A number of recent reports have illustrated the wide-ranging and immediate recruitment needs of fashion and textiles manufacturers, needs that are becoming increasingly acute and acerbated by an ageing workforce with the retirement of skilled and experienced staff coupled difficulties filling current vacancies.
A key question is where the next generation of workers will come from and how they can be actively engaged in understanding the basic premises of many of the materials and processes used.
Recruitment into the sector is additionally tough; requires many technical skills that are learnt through experience, an industry battling an on-going image problem and with a training infrastructure that had to now been in decline as demand dried up.
Additionally the sector has the issue of being dominated by micro firms for whom employment and training demand is difficult to inculcate.
The latest figures from the Department for Education show how in England this is becoming an increasingly difficult problem with less and less students participating in the textiles technology GCSE qualification, a qualification well suited for building base knowledge and awareness of the sector.
Between 2009/10 and 2014/15 entries onto the GCSE in England have declined 32% with incremental falls each year to stand at just over 24,000 entries. Additionally, whilst the vast majority of students pass, the number passing at A-C grade has also steadily declined in the same period from 76% to 72%.
Figure 1: GCSE textile technology entries and pass rates 2014/15Source: Department for Education
How this picture can be reversed or if there are alternative ways for the sector to interact with schools now manufacturing is showing many positive signs of employment opportunity are interesting questions for both industry and educational stakeholders to answer.
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