Leicester - A new collaboration between a specialist technical skills training provider, a Leicester apparel manufacturer and local authorities has resulted in a new project aimed at delivering apprenticeships and accredited training for the textile industry in Leicester.
The project, between Fashion-Enter Ltd - FTA division, Leicester City Council and local clothing company Ethically Sourced Products Ltd, will develop a new textiles skills centre – the Leicester Fashion Technology Academy (LFTA).
Leicester has the second largest concentration of textile and fashion manufacturing businesses in the UK and historically, has always been a major hub for the country's knitting industry.
Recognizing the importance of the industry to the local economy, the city council is investing £300,000 to help set up the pilot project to offer apprenticeships and accredited training for people working in the local textiles industry. The new academy will also look to work closely with local textiles and fashion manufacturing businesses.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Leicester has a long and proud history of textile manufacturing and we want the industry to play an important and positive role in the city’s future.
“We have some fantastic textiles businesses in the city. Many are working with leading fashion brands and retailers and together they employ thousands of people. However, many businesses have told us that they struggle to recruit workers with the right skills. We also know that many local workers want to develop their skills and progress within the industry.
“Establishing this new training academy with leading experts in the field is an exciting way of supporting the fashion and textiles industry in Leicester and helping ensure that local workers have the best opportunities to develop their skills and careers.”
Deputy city mayor Cllr Adam Clarke added: “This is an incredibly positive move for the textiles industry in Leicester and an initiative we are proud to invest in to show our commitment to fair working practices, high standards and highly-skilled local jobs.
“It builds on the work we have done since the city mayor formed the Leicester Labour Market Partnership in 2019, with the specific aim of working with our partners to tackle problems, raise standards and highlight best practice in the local textiles industry.
“We look forward to seeing this innovative training centre in operation in Leicester, as soon as current circumstances will allow.”
Leicester’s new textiles training centre will be operated by Fashion-Enter Ltd, a specialist technical skills training provider. The not-for-profit social enterprise based in both London and Newtown, Wales, is recognised as a centre of excellence for the development of skills in the fashion and textiles industries.
Fashion-Enter set up its successful Fashion Technology Academy in north London in 2015. Leicester will be the second city it has launched a fashion academy in.
The new academy will offer people the opportunity to work towards entry-level qualifications in core industry skills including pattern-making, fabric inspection, laying and cutting, machine maintenance and stitching. People can then work towards advanced certificates and progress onto one of Fashion-Enter’s apprenticeship schemes for retail/etail employers.
Jenny Holloway, CEO of Fashion-Enter, explained: “We have worked with Leicester over the last five years and we know what a major cluster of garment manufacturing there is. We now have a unique opportunity to create a quality-based hub that will engage with retailers and manufacturers to create a new generation of highly trained specialists. These are exciting times indeed.”
The new training centre will be based on the top floor of Ethically Sourced Products’ factory premises in Spinney Hills.
The company’s expansion into its new premises was supported by a £1.5 million loan from the city council’s investment fund. This helped the company to completely rebuild five derelict warehouses on Stonebridge Street to create a modern new manufacturing base.
Ethically Sourced Products Ltd was formed almost 20 years ago and originally produced organic Fairtrade t-shirts as tour merchandise for artists including Radiohead and Stereophonics. Now specialising in production for British heritage and luxury brands, garments made at its Leicester factory are sold all over the world.
Richard Olley, owner and managing director of Ethically Sourced Products Ltd, said: “The launch of the Leicester training centre will give real practical help not only to manufacturers looking to recruit new, or upskill existing employees, but to members of the community wishing to enter the industry.”
The new Leicester Fashion Technology Academy is planning to open in early summer, following refurbishment of the new premises, with delivery of an initial taster programme.