Cashmere and woollens company Johnstons of Elgin will begin running a knitwear manufacturing course at its factory in the Scottish Borders from November, as it attempts to drive up the number of skilled workers entering the industry.
Trainees on the year-long course will be based at a new centre at the mill in Hawick and will be able to specialise in body linking, collar linking, hand sewing and mending. The course will be led by a dedicated training manager, with some of Johnstons’ most experienced employees teaching the specific skills.
Six of the 10 places on this year’s course will be filled by Johnstons’ trainees, while the remaining four are open to other companies in the area. Johnstons is currently interviewing candidates.
No previous experience or skills are necessary and the course is free for the trainees. On completion they will receive a Modern Apprenticeship qualification in their chosen specialism.
Chief executive Simon Cotton told Drapers he wants Johnstons, which employs 800 people and already offers apprenticeships at its Elgin site, to become a training and development organisation responsible for upping standards across the industry.
“We have a demographic situation where the best people we have are approaching retirement in the next five to 15 years, and we really need to be replacing them as well as giving us enough room to grow,” he explained.
“At this moment we have 70 roles in recruitment (a mix of seasonal workers, replacements and new roles), many of which are skilled. That is a challenge; we need to bring people into the industry. We’re very aware that if we want to have the skills for the next 200 years we’re going to have to train – and train at a much higher level than we ever have done.”
On opening the course up to other companies, he added: “We need enough good people in the industry in general, otherwise we’d all be competing for skilled staff.”
Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland supported the development of the Hawick training centre.