By Kate Berry & Sally Blaxall
Technical education in the UK is now at the forefront of the government’s agenda. A new ‘T-Level’ system, which overhauls how technical education is delivered aims to put technical courses on an equal footing with academia and improve Britain’s productivity.
Philip Hammond said, during his UK budget speech this month: “There is still a lingering doubt about the parity of esteem attaching to technical education,” he said. “England’s technical education system is confusing for students, with around 13,000 qualifications available – many of them of little value.” The new T-level courses will include catering & hospitality, construction, social care, engineering and manufacturing.
With future investment in education afoot, the question remains, how can the fashion industry support students in the acquisition of technical skills and ensure that the skills gap in manufacturing is closed for future generations? Perhaps the answer lies in a collaborative approach from both education providers and the industry itself. Colleges and universities can provide students with improved technical training through their courses and the industry can in turn contribute by offering support via bursaries, prizes, site visits and work experience opportunities.
QHQ, the leading technical resource to the fashion industry have recently awarded a £1,500 bursary to student, Natasha Osaro-Osaghae to enable her to progress onto the Level 2 Perfect Pattern Cutting Course at the Fashion Technology Academy in London.
Sally Blaxall, Director QHQ commented:
‘As technical experts in our field, we are so passionate about the industry and we are absolutely thrilled to be in a position to provide this opportunity for Natasha. We want to give something back to the industry and by supporting Natasha through this process, she will be able to acquire the correct technical skills to drive her career forward.’
Natasha will learn to use an array of tools, techniques and methods to produce perfect blocks and patterns that fit as well as an introduction to lay planning during a 10 week course.
“I have always had a strong interest in the fashion industry and even with a desire to have my own label, I knew that an understanding of the construction of garments and components of the fabric was just as important as the design side.”
Retailers truly need the next generation of technical experts to have outstanding skills. With the soaring popularity of online shopping and the resulting increase in product returns impacting negatively on profitability, it is crucial the industry invests in improving technologies for correct fit and sizing.
Five further students at Fashion Enter’s garment manufacturing training centre in London have been awarded £1,500 bursaries this year by Alvanon, Global Apparel Business Expert. Alvanon was founded in 2001 when it developed a unique and innovative data-driven objectives. The company has research, development and manufacturing facilities in Dongguan and Shenzhen in China to explore the challenges of sizing and fit inherent in the modern apparel industry.
Alvanon hopes to improve the industry by providing research, tools and training to future generations entering the fashion industry.
“In the past 15 years, we have lost technical skills and seen a lean towards the creative aspects of the fashion industry,” Janice Wang, Alvanon CEO. “We hope to support the companies and academia that are teaching and training the practical, technical and tactile: the patternmakers, the technical designers and the sewing professionals.”
Back in 2014, Alvanon also donated £50,000 in technical fit forms – AlvaForms – to Fashion Enter’s London-based garment manufactures and training centre. The tools and resources were donated as part of Alvanon’s initiative to restore technical skills to global fashion hubs.
Jenny Holloway, Fashion Enter Founder and CEO, whose academy produces for retailers including Mark & Spencer, ASOS and Finery London, says: “Garment manufacturing today needs a skilled workforce and this is why we developed the Fashion Technology Academy to run intensive courses that are specifically skills related. We are also the leading fashion apprenticeship provider in England for Garment Technology.”
Sally Blaxall believes that the industry can secure its future by investing in young talent and supporting technical education providers. Sally and her QHQ colleague, Jane Duncan visited the University of Northampton in January this year, during ‘Subject Futures Week’ to speak to fashion students about working as a garment technologist in the industry. The QHQ team had a clear aim - to inspire students to consider technical roles as a good career choice.
Caroline Southernwood, Senior Lecturer in Footwear and Accessories, said that their visit gave Fashion students a “valuable insight in to the role of the garment technologist.”
Sally said: “Students are the next generation of home grown talent that the industry must nurture to ensure that UK garment manufacturing continues to thrive. This is the time to drive technical skills forward and with companies like QHQ and Alvanon recognising the importance of technology skills, we can work collaboratively with technical education providers to secure the future of British manufacturing.”
The Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) has a student membership package offering students industry support and awards.
Dr Alistair Knox, Chairman ASBCI commented: “The ASBCI has the largest active student section of any trade association in the UK fashion and textile sector. We have organised conferences, seminars and factory visits that provide students with direct links to industry and technical expertise. All student members receive a free copy of our Yearbook, generous discounts on our technical publications, and access to member-only reports on our web site. ASBCI competitions with industry sponsors help students to aim for excellence in their studies, with respect to design collections, innovation projects and final year dissertations.”