Pattern-cutting is a highly rewarding and creative role, as well as being an invaluable asset to companies that recognise the importance of fit. Therefore, I welcome initiatives in securing its future within the UK. However, apart from the shortages highlighted, there is a fundamental concern on the caliber of pattern-cutters that are emerging - based upon the quality of training and investment during education and beyond.
The colleges need to focus on basic technical skills, such as balance, accuracy and attention to detail. These courses should also be supplemented by working industry experts. Furthermore, whatever entry price points they are working towards, the course should always be directly linked to technology and production.
Pattern-cutting is heavily dependent upon varied experience, so graduates need to have mentor ship / support during the early years of their career. This time is crucial as it sets the foundation for future development of their skills. They also need access to good experienced pattern-cutters. However, the increased speed to market could have a negative impact, because there may not be the resources to support less experienced pattern-cutters to address and analyse their pattern issues.
I do not agree that Designers needs to be trained pattern-cutters - as this may hinder creativity. However, in this day and age, the pattern-cutter has an increasing pivotal role, and needs to be fully conversant in construction techniques, as well as being able to communicate fully with other sectors, such as technologists and factories. Creating a commercial product has to exists at all levels of the industry, (luxury, premium, value) so the pattern-cutter's input is essential to eliminate potential problems during production and be able to support the process through technical data.
On a general note, the industry should be reaching out to technicians that are retired, or approaching retirement, such as pattern-cutters, machinists, fabric cutters etc..Their wealth of knowledge is not being passed on to the new generations, and may eventually be lost.
Today, technology in pattern-cutting is a necessity to integrate with the other processes. However, these advances will not achieve full potential if high quality pattern-cutting skills and passion for the art does not exist.