To preserve a strong, sustainable UK fashion and textile industry we need to make sure the appropriate training and education is in place, both for young people looking for a career in the industry and for those already employed who need to be better equipped with the skills required today and in the future.
The core funding route for training in our sector has been through Skillfast-UK, one of the country’s 25 sector skills councils licensed by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. Skillfast-UK’s work includes detailed research on the sector’s requirements, identifying gaps in training and helping trainers and educationalists develop more pertinent qualifications.
However, Skillfast-UK’s licence only runs until the end of March 2010 and there is some doubt over whether it will be renewed. We are lobbying hard for this and have taken up the case with both the commission and with Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, as we need to protect this funding. However, sector skills councils in general, not just Skillfast-UK, could not deliver the actual training as part of their remit.
This is why the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) is also very involved in a bid to establish a National Skills Academy (NSA) for the fashion, textile and accessories sector. The NSA has based its business plan on the research and work of Skillfast-UK but is adding the more practical dimension, with ideas to set up training on a regional basis and also within employers’ premises, offering learning off and on the job.
Whatever the outcome, UKFT will do its utmost to ensure there is a well-funded training organisation to strengthen the UK’s manufacturing and design talent.
- Peter Lucas is chairman of the UK Fashion and Textile Association