In the first of the ASBCI’s Beyond 2020 event series, experts from MOTIF, Fashion-Enter, Make it British, and Planet Personnel discussed the ongoing skills gaps in the fashion sector, the impact of Brexit, and the challenge of making technical skills appealing in an increasingly digital world.
Jackie Lewis from MOTIF opened with a review of the State of Skills in the Apparel Industry 2020 report, focusing on the skills required to reposition the industry and the need to harness the old with the new to drive the smart fashion models of the future. The skills gap in the industry is very real, said Jackie, and businesses are still struggling to find the right skills. She highlighted the disconnect between management and employees when it comes to perceived training needs and attitudes.
‘There is a gap between what people need and what the industry needs’ Looking to the future, Jackie highlighed the key skills that must be developed. These are: digital process flow, 3D, data integration and analytical problem solving, lean manufacturing, and innovative thinking. ‘Prioritise a learning culture and look to your value chain,’ Jackie told attendees. ‘You will have experts in your business, so bring people together and create a strong mentoring programme. It is always better to upskill and invest in existing staff.’
The webinar took place on the day that Lockdown 2.0 ended in England and just days after news of the adminstration of first Debenhams and then the Arcadia Group, two giants of UK fashion retailing. This led toa lively discussion between the panellists on the importance of data insight to understand changing customer needs, the growing emphasis on a responsive online offer, and innovation at the product level.
Kate Hills from Make it British also emphasised that even the biggest fashion businesses need to retain some UK manufacturing to respond quickly to the latest trends. On the topic of UK manufacturing, the panel discussed the challenges of Brexit, which has already caused shortages in skilled labour, said Jenny Holloway from Fashion-Enter, who added how hard it is to recruit for roles such as machinists, particularly in London.
Lindsay Clarke from Planet Personnel said it is imperative the industry focuses on making roles as interesting as possible, with clear career progression. ‘We need to start with colleges and universities and make students aware of the possibilities for technical roles.’
The next webinar in the series, Smart Consumers Beyond 2020: the postpandemic digital opportunity, takes place on 3 March 2021 and will provide an in-depth look at how the pandemic has changed consumer behaviour.