Hawick’s new £610,000 textile training centre will be created within the town’s high school, it has been revealed.
The creation of a centre of excellence in textiles in the town was announced last year, but exactly where is would be has only just been confirmed.
It was first thought the centre, intended to help boost Hawick’s economic fortunes in the textile and knitwear sector, would be housed within one of the town’s redundant mill factories.
However, it will instead open its doors inside the Buccleuch Road school early this year.
Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage, a former teacher at the school, has welcomed that announcement.
“This is good news for Hawick High School as the town has an outstanding reputation for producing luxury textiles around the world,” she said.
“Before I was elected as a councillor, Liz Parkes and I ran a very successful creative fashion course in Hawick High School for 15 years that was recognised nationally and won many awards.
“Many of our students went on to very successful careers in design and textiles.
“At the present time, several of our previous students are employed by local knitwear mills.
“Anything that helps to revive this interest in textiles has to be welcomed.
“Pupils will benefit from this announcement as it will provide a wider, more vocational curriculum.”
The centre is being set up by a partnership made up of Scottish Borders Council, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, the Department for Work and Pensions and textile and knitwear manufacturing businesses.
It was awarded £610,000 by the Scottish Government via the south of Scotland economic partnership in July,
Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson said: “It’s only going back to where it once was at the high school.
“I know that local textile manufacturers have been crying out for more qualified workers who are better able to cope with the new methods of working in the industry.
“I’m glad that we at Scottish Borders Council are acting as an enabler to retain the present workforce that the industry currently employs and hopefully increase that workforce into one which is multi-skilled and able to turn their hands to many jobs in the industry.
“I hope we can once again have Hawick as the knitwear capital of the world.”
Training will be provided for the town’s current textiles and knitwear workforce and also their future colleagues aged 16 to 19 via foundation and modern apprenticeships, and the first intake of trainees is currently being sought.
David Hamilton, mill operations director at Johnstons of Elgin, added: “The future of the textiles and knitwear industry is inextricably linked with young people, and locating the centre of excellence at Hawick High School makes perfect sense.
“Whilst young people are a key element for the success of textiles, we must not forget future trainees, and employees, can be of any age and therefore applications will be welcome from all age groups.
“Johnstons of Elgin already have established very successful relationships with secondary schools in Moray and in Hawick.
“The centre of excellence is something that all Hawick-based businesses in the sector can be actively involved with, and make the most of, for the benefit of their own individual business.”
The centre will be managed by Alistair Young, formerly operations manager at the town’s old Peter Scott factory in Buccleuch Street, closed in 2016 with the loss of more than 50 jobs.
The authority’s executive member for business and economic development, Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, added: “Creating the new centre in the town’s high school is an important step in making closer links between the education of the young people of Hawick and the surrounding area and a thriving business sector which is in need of skilled employees.
“It is absolutely clear that the growth of the industry in the town, and potential inward investment, is reliant on skilled individuals being available.
“The creation of the centre in the school is a unique opportunity and there are a number of future opportunities that can be exploited by establishing close links between the two.
“This is just the start of meeting a large and recognised need and could grow further.”