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Manufacturers can face up to an image problem

Eric Musgrave

I’m delighted that the UK Fashion & Textile Association’s (UKFT) Let’s Make It Here database of companies manufacturing in this country is live on www.ukft.org. It’s free to search the listing or get listed, so if you’re a manufacturer or you know of a production unit, do list the details. The initiative can only thrive if people make small additions.

Putting the database in order has thrown up another urgent requirement for our industry: for a database of skilled personnel from the manufacturing sector. In all my recent conversations with managing directors and production directors, the shortage of people coming into the industry - and the difficulty of keeping the ones who do - has been a recurring theme. Almost all UK manufacturing has an image problem - working in a factory is not seen as desirable, fulfilling or a long-term prospect.

And employers who can attract new blood complain that financial help with apprenticeships and training is either not available, or is hidden in a bureaucratic maze of national, regional and local schemes, which often seem not to appreciate the production processes they wish to assist.

Hopefully, the Let’s Make It Here database will make it easier for politicians and civil servants to understand fashion’s complicated supply chain, and will identify what skills we have and what we ought to preserve. Making things may not be as ‘sexy’ as parading them on a catwalk, but it’s an essential component of the process.

Whichever political party gets in next month, UKFT will lobby it to stress that our existing manufacturing base is an overlooked but precious asset.

Please forward any ideas for how we can preserve that asset to eric.musgrave@ukft.org.

Eric Musgrave is director-general designate of the UK Fashion & Textiles Association (UKFT)

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