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Scottish knitwear manufacturers set aside rivalries to launch programme addressing critical skills gap

Scottish knitwear companies have set aside long-standing rivalries to launch an apprenticeship scheme to help them meet a critical skills gap facing their businesses over the next five years.

The 12 firms - Hawick Knitwear, Hawick Cashmere, Peter Scott, Johnston’s of Elgin, Barrie, William Lockie & Co, House of Cheviot, Scott & Charters, Eribe, Caerlee Mills, Kearse & Boys and Lochcarron - face losing up to 10% of their skilled workforces, unless they can train a new generation, as staff are due to retire.

The scheme will see 50 apprentices trained in handcraft and machine production techniques as well as milling, clean make up, finishing and processing.

Last week, the Scottish Textiles Academic Group kickstarted the scheme with support for trainers and assessors, while the apprentices are currently being recruited through Job Centre Plus’ Get Ready for Work and Work Experience initiatives.

Each apprentice will receive £4,500 in financial support from Skills Development Scotland, while Scottish Enterprise will provide organisational support.

The Scottish Textiles Academic Group (STAG) and Cardonald College are also involved, overseeing the trainers, assessors and apprentices.

The knitwear manufacturers, led by House of Cheviot founder Robin Deas and the Scottish Borders Association’s Mike Wilson, have teamed up with a number of organisations including Skillset Scotland to run the programme.

Scotland’s Skills Minister, Alasdair Allan, said in a statement, “Through Opportunities for All, we are committed to ensuring that every 16-19-year-old has a place in school, college or training. I am very pleased to see these traditional rivals putting their differences aside and creating new opportunities for young people in the Borders that will also give their industry fresh impetus.”

The 12 knitwear manufacturers, under the Scottish Borders Knitwear Group Training Association, will be responsible for running future apprenticeships. 

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