Mill chief sees bright outlook for ‘modern’ textiles industry

A LEADING knitwear employer has predicted a prosperous future for the industry.

Robin Deas was speaking after the latest meeting of the Scottish Borders Knitwear Group Training Association where it was confirmed that a majority of the apprenticeship places offered earlier this year have been filled, trainers are in place and assessors are at the ready.

The initiative has the backing of all 12 members of the association, including many textile companies from the town.

Mr Deas, owner of House of Cheviot, told the Hawick News this week: “At the meeting we wanted to confirm that all the apprenticeships had been taken on or are going to be taken on; trainers were in place, the assessors have now been trained and funding has been agreed for the apprenticeships through SVQs.

“To date that has all been covered so we are absolutely on stream.”

Back in October work began to recruit 20 trainers and 10 assessors necessary for the association to take on its first 50 apprentices.

Job Centre Plus has provided potential recruits through the Get Ready for Work and Work Experience initiatives, Scottish Enterprise the organisational support and Skills Development Scotland financial support of up to £6,000 per apprentice. The Scottish Textiles Academic Group (STAG) and Cardonald College has provided academic support for the trainers, assessors and apprentices, and there is broad support from the Scottish Textiles Industry Association (STIA) and the Scottish Government.

Companies in the Borders are facing a potential decrease of 10 per cent of their 2,000-plus workforce due to retirement over the next five years.

But Mr Deas believes there is plenty to be optimistic about with the injection of young talent into the industry.

He added: “We want to show local people, parents, grandparents, school teachers and young people that textiles is now a modern industry and we can offer exciting opportunities for school leavers.

“The products we’re making are exciting, innovative and very high quality. I think the people of Hawick and the Borders would be very surprised to learn that we make for some of the finest retail outlets in the world.”

Cathy Black, head of textiles at Scottish Enterprise, said: “The continuous development of a skilled workforce in the textiles industry is of paramount importance for our future. This initiative will engage more people from various backgrounds and encourage them to pursue a career in this vibrant sector.”