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Industry must build routes to learning

Peter Lucas

The start of a new academic year set me thinking about how well or badly our industry and higher education co-operate. The maintenance and the development of jobs, training and skills in the fashion sector will be a central plank of UKFT strategy going forward.

The start of a new academic year set me thinking about how well or badly our industry and higher education co-operate. The maintenance and the development of jobs, training and skills in the fashion sector will be a central plank of UKFT strategy going forward.

We are not underestimating the difficulty of getting all the relevant dominoes to line up, but our intention is to bring industry, academia and government closer. The importance to all parties, and not least to the economic well-being of the country, cannot be underestimated. The current financial difficulties for all sides may herald a more pragmatic approach to discussions on matters such as the relevance of academic courses and the actual needs of industry.

Given the pressure colleges are under, with reduced budgets meaning fewer places for students, we hope that a stronger spirit of communication and co-operation can be developed between learning and commerce.

I wonder how many of the reported thousands of students who did not get the required grades for college are now seriously looking at a career in retailing, wholesaling or manufacturing? I wonder also how many vacancies exist for the next generation of workers who have passed GCSEs and A-levels, but not higher exams?

Despite all the carping about the miscommunication between lecture theatre and shopfloor, there are many excellent examples of profitable co-operation between colleges and businesses. One of the best routes to better understanding is for companies to offer work placements. There can be unexpected benefits. Ten years ago, Drapers gave a textile student a stint of work experience. She liked the job so much that she never returned to college. She is now the editor of this publication.

Peter Lucas is chairman of the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT)

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