Apprentices key to local textile industry’s future

Hawick Knitwear handsewer Orlando Mere
Hawick Knitwear handsewer Orlando Mere
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The importance of modern apprenticeships to two Hawick firms has been highlighted, with an awards nomination and a visit from an MP.

Hawick Knitwear representatives were anxiously awaiting the announcement of the winner of a Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Modern Apprenticeship Award at a ceremony in Glasgow last night (Wednesday).

Hawick Knitwear trainer Carol Gilmour with collar linker Jahanna Hartness

Hawick Knitwear trainer Carol Gilmour with collar linker Jahanna Hartness

The firm was shortlisted in the Employer of the Year category for businesses with less than 250 employees.

The firm is part of the industry-led Borders Textile Training Group (BTTG), which helped create a fashion and textile apprenticeship framework in partnership with SDS, Creative Skillset and Cardonald College.

Hawick Knitwear HR manager Rhona McLeod said: “The model is currently being rolled out throughout the textile industry in Scotland and we are now working with the BTTG on an apprenticeship for technicians.”

She added: “As one of the major employers in the area we needed to address the issues of an ageing workforce, as well as attracting young people into the industry who may have felt there were no prospects in it. By offering apprenticeships it has shown people that the company is willing to invest in them and their skills.

Michael Moore MP with four Hawick Cashmere apprentices

Michael Moore MP with four Hawick Cashmere apprentices

“It also means they get a qualification which is recognised UK-wide and we get loyal and enthusiastic employees who see that apprenticeships are not only good for the company but good for them too.”

Mrs McLeod added: “We see today’s apprentices as the trainers, assessors, technicians and managers of the future.”

As part of an ongoing campaign to increase apprenticeships locally, Michael Moore MP visited Hawick Cashmere to find out about their programme.

He said: “A successful textile industry is vital to the prosperity of our region and therefore, it was heartening to see this flourishing business training the next generation of textile producers.

Rhona McLeod, Hawick Knitwear HR manager

Rhona McLeod, Hawick Knitwear HR manager

“Along with most other textile companies in the town, Hawick Cashmere is very clearly investing in the future.”