Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Creative skills for future-proof fashion

With all the stress and DIRE cost associated with University these days, it's with a happy heart and great applause that I heard about the upcoming National Apprenticeship Week recently, and especially the Higher Level Apprenticeships in Fashion being run by Creative Skillset (which build to become equivalent to the first year at Uni).

Being able to 'earn and learn' is a lifesaver for the many out there who don't have the leg up from their family that some enjoy. True to form some of fashion's biggest trend-setters have been early adopters of an approach that is working hard to plug the looming skills shortage that could threaten a vital £4 billion industry, including Mulberry and Dr Martens.

Ian Scott, Group Supply Director at Mulberry, was the driving force behind the establishment of the first Fashion and Textiles apprenticeships in 2006. Recognising that invaluable skills were going to be lost to the industry, Ian instigated the first Level 2 NVQ apprenticeship, in conjunction with Bridgwater College, by hiring ten apprenticeships. Since then, Mulberry has hired 64 apprentices with 47 still being employed by the world renowned luxury leather goods company.

“Our industry needs all types of people, those with hands-on skills and those with strategy, tactical and planning ability. Fundamentally, a work place can’t have all graduates, it needs a mix of people with different skills and aptitudes,” says Ian.
Stephen Bent and Millie Purbrick at Dr Martin's
Stephen Bent and Alex Cotton at Dr. Marten's are also big supporters. “We were reliant on retained skills and with many of our employees reaching retirement age, there was a huge gap in skills coming into and through the industry,” said Stephen. “With no future skills resource, we knew we had to identify a way of attracting new talent to the industry.”

Alex was given guidance on the process of apprenticeships from Mulberry. “Mulberry was invaluable in guiding us to create our apprenticeship as they were already running very successful apprenticeship schemes.”

One of the Dr Martin's apprentices is Mollie Purbrick, pictured above, who relocated from Brighton to the factory base at Wollaston when she was accepted to the scheme - um, shove that in your face any politician who tries to claim the young aren't trying hard enough to find work!!

Mollie’s love of British made goods started when she was working at Fred Perry and she wanted to continue working with an iconic British brand. “It is quite overwhelming to be working in Dr. Marten’s original factory and to witness making shoes from prototype through to final production.” said Mollie. “My father was a shoemaker, repairing clowns shoes so I understand that this is a very old industry steeped in tradition and one I am immensely proud to be part of and appreciate that I have been given a doorway into my chosen industry.”

“I can ask questions all day long and everyone is so keen to help. An apprenticeship offers what no other job pathway can by putting me in a professional environment as a student,” said Mollie.

Good on you Mollie and friends. I'm looking forward to hearing more success stories come National Apprenticeship Week, 11th-15th March.

If you're interested in hearing more, head down to the Apprenticeship Open Day to be hosted by Fashion Enter at its Fashion Studio at the University of East London at the Knowledge Dock Business Centre on Tuesday 12th February. It'll bring together leading High Street Stores, clothing manufacturers and potential apprentices with Creative Skillset for an informative workshop and job fair. On Thursday 14th February, The Factory will open its doors from 10.00am to 15.00pm for visitors to review the new facilities and meet the team.

For more info visit

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