Hawick councillors welcome opening of £610,000 training centre to fill textile industry skills gap

Hawick’s councillors have welcomed the opening of the town’s new textile skills training centre this week.

Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 7:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 7:30 pm
Hawick councillors, from left, Watson McAteer, Neil Richards, George Turnbull and Davie Paterson at Hawick's textile centre of excellence with, fourth from left, Fergus Ewing, Scotland's rural economy secretary.

The £610,000 centre, at the town’s Buccleuch Road high school, was declared up and running by Scottish Government rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing today, May 2, and the town’s six Scottish Borders Council representatives were among those invited along to see it unveiled.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson, a former textile worker, said: “I think it is a massive boost for the town.

“I would hope that the town will get behind this initiative to better educate young people wishing to enter work in the knitwear industry.

Councillors, from left, George Turnbull, Davie Paterson and Neil Richards at Hawick's new textile skills training centre.

“That would allow the industry to compete against competitors from all over the world and help keep Hawick producing some of the finest quality knitwear and hopefully not only retain the present workforce but create many opportunities for some enterprising local people to start up and create more jobs for Borders people for many years to come.”

Fellow ward councillor George Turnbull said: “This is a fabulous new centre in Hawick, which is the heart of the textile industry, and with so many world-class knitwear manufacturers, this new facility should go a long way to fill the skills gap, as is so urgently required.

“The knitwear industry offers permanent employment for those who are willing to learn new skills and offers a career ladder for school leavers who want to make progress throughout their working lives.

“Hawick has so much to offer and is a great place to live, work and play, and the quality of life is second to none.

“I wish all involved every success for the future.”

Watson McAteer, the ward’s other councillor and also the town’s honorary provost, said: “The South of Scotland Economic Partnership has demonstrated its faith in Hawick and our world-famous knitwear industry by committing £600,000 to develop our textile centre of excellence.

“This new facility will help to ensure the future of our core business and, importantly, create real opportunities for those who are seeking to learn specialist skills and develop experience.

“I am hopeful that this will be the first step in a renewed economic focus for Hawick and the southern Borders.”

Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall, another former mill worker, said: “I’m sure that everyone in the town will welcome the £600,000 that has been invested in this facility, and hopefully it won’t be too long before our knitwear and textile industry is drawing on the vital skills of the trainees involved.

“It will be vital in the months ahead to measure the success of this new centre, which has been set up to address a critical skills shortage within the industry.

“Like many townsfolk, I don’t think the location of a prefabricated classroom to the rear of Hawick High School is the correct place to house this much-trumpeted centre of excellence.

“It’s such a pity that there hasn’t been much more thought given to bringing one of the many derelict old factories in the town back to life.”

Fellow ward councillor Clair Ramage added: “Starting teaching in Hawick, I was fully aware from the beginning of the town’s rich textile heritage as I taught within Hawick High School.

“The Henderson Building was the very first centre of excellence in textiles. From there, a large department was set up at the Henderson’s Technical College, again a brilliant facility which helped to train much-needed staff.

“It was a sad day when we lost this college and the repercussions were obvious as knitwear companies struggled to recruit trained staff.

“I was therefore proud when the Scottish Government announced funding of £610,000 to fund a much-needed and long-overdue centre of excellence in textiles.

“Let us hope that as a centre it has a longevity that befits its importance to our town.”

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