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Putting out an SOS to save UK skills

Jessica Brown

Of the estimated 80,000 people who work in the fashion industry, how many know how to cut or grade a pattern?

Of the estimated 80,000 people who work in the fashion industry, how many know how to cut or grade a pattern?

Plenty have been through the UK’s numerous fashion design university courses and learned how to ‘design’, but far too few are given more than a passing lesson in the grassroots skills of actually making a flat sketch into 3D reality.

With the renewed interest in UK fashion and textile manufacturing, making skills are what the sector really needs, so Drapers was shocked to learn that Leicester’s De Montfort University was canning its fashion technology degree course - the leading one of its kind in the country - to focus solely on training yet more designers, due to lack of government funding (see p2).

That seems a little ironic given that the minister for culture, Ed Vaizey, has been vocal about the importance of exactly these sorts of skills to the health of the sector and how much he would like to see British manufacturing grow again.

Of the many UK factories and mills that have contacted Drapers since our ‘UK manufacturing reborn’ news story (January 28), almost all have complained that a skills gap is actually holding back business. That’s extra painful to hear given 20.3%, or 951,000 16 to 24-year-olds, are currently unemployed - the highest figure on record.

As a result, Drapers has launched an SOS (Save Our Skills) campaign to challenge the Government and relevant organisations to go much further in their support of skills training. Apprenticeship schemes and training courses are two vital ways of doing this.

We need your backing to achieve the outcomes we all need. Details of the many ways to get involved are overleaf, or email me at

To join our campaign, go to

Jessica Brown Editor

Readers' comments (1)

  • Its a sad old state of affairs, and for any body who has been in the industry for any length of time, and one which is not truly surprising.
    The rush to source overseas has been with us for some time now, and manufacturers that used to make in the UK have nearly all moved their sourcing to cheaper parts of the world to chase down costs.
    The problem is we live in an extremely fast paced industry, and globalisation is not just about sourcing overseas, it also means that via Television or the Web, those workers in the so called emerging markets aspire to the same consumer rewards as their peers in other countries, and why not? It's just that now those aspirations are far faster to come about than they were even just 5 years ago.
    Globalisation means that the global labour force is beginning to push back and demand better wages and conditions, and it should be no surprise to anybody that within the next 10 years wages and conditions will be pretty much on a par, no matter where you go.
    The smart money from a UK manufacturers point of view should have seen this coming and started to invest in apprenticeships and training schemes much earlier, it is not really the place of Universities or the Government to provide a skilled labour force.
    That responsibility lies fairly and squarely with the industry.

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