How do we address the shortage of textile workers?

Thousands more textile workers are needed to meet the increasing demand for locally made clothing and textiles. Lobbying organisation Fashion Roundtable is working on a solution – but they need your help

textile workers
Thousands of garment machinists are needed to keep up with demand

There has been a huge shift towards manufacturing locally recently. Not only is the government now sourcing textiles from the UK in the form of PPE, but retailers and brands have also been contacting us here at Make it British saying they’re looking to source more from the UK.

One homeware manufacturer based in West Yorkshire told me that buyers at a well-known chain of discount retail stores in the UK had been tasked with sourcing 50% of their products locally going forward. Great news for him and many other manufacturers alike.

But whilst this increase in demand is fantastic news for the manufacturers, the biggest issue is how they’re going to find the staff to keep up with the increases in production.

Back on episode 104 of the Make it British podcast I interviewed Tamara Cincik from Fashion Roundtable. In the interview she highlighted how post-Brexit there will be potentially be a shortfall in skilled garment and textile workers  because at the moment many of them come to the UK from the EU where they learn sewing to a high level.

Tamara has been campaigning for garment and textile worker roles to be added to the Shortage Occupation List, which means that they  would be able to apply for a visa to come to the UK post Brexit.

Whilst it would be fantastic if more local people took these jobs, it can take up to 5 years to train textile workers to the level needed, and the UK still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of teaching sewing skills to the younger generation.

Fashion Roundtable have been lobbying over the past year for the fashion industry to be added to the Shortage Occupation Visa List for jobs post Brexit.

This would mean that textile workers would be able to come to the UK to fill these much needed roles, thereby filling the gap over the next few years, and also helping to train up domestic workers.

We need these textile workers for manufacturers to be able to keep up with the growing demand for locally-made fashion and textiles.

Kate Hills

Fashion Roundtable need to gather evidence from the industry to demonstrate just how important these roles are. This information will then be put before the Migration Advisory committee in September 2020 for final consideration for these roles to be added to the Shortage Occupation List.

They are running a snap survey to gather this information.

If you work in the UK fashion and textile industry please complete the Fashion Roundtable survey. Closing date is 24 June 2020.

To respond directly to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) Call for Evidence for the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) click here.