The Future of Fashion’s Production Workforce in the UK
Today, 8th July, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion and FashionCapital organised a Parliamentary meeting to discuss which visas and why, the British manufacturing sector needs in order to continue to thrive. In particular we are requesting that the UK Government add production and sample machinists to the shortage occupation visa list, and to not apply the MAC report’s recommendation for a £30,000 salary for Tier 2 visa applicants post-Brexit, which would include EEA and non-EEA citizens.
Tamara Cincik, secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion welcomed all at the packed meeting read out apologies from those unable to attend. Lord Young of Norwood Green introduced the session – he voiced views on the UK garment manufacturing sector and concerns as echoed in the results of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion survey.
Key results revealed that:
- 81% said stitching is high skilled, the remainder thought it was medium skilled
- 88.9% thought that there are not enough skills domestically to fill vacancies
- 63% think vacancies will increase after Brexit
Our very own CEO Jenny Holloway followed to discuss the challenges that British garment manufacturers have to face today and how we can ensure continued growth for the industry. Professor Jonathan Portes, Senior Fellow at The UK in a Changing Europe explained more on how and why Brexit will affect economic activity. While Peter Gambrill Economist for the Migration Advisory Committee, gave an overview of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). Occupations on this list are currently under review and the home secretary has commissioned the MAC to look at regional wage limits across the country with a final report due by the end of the year.
After a first round of questions from attendees, Kate Hills Founder of Make It British talked about the increase in demand for garment manufacturing in the UK. While Jack Tindale from Policy Connect rounded off the session by discussing the real need of on-going skills, education and T-Levels in the sector. Attendees were once again invited to have their say and ask further questions.
Jacqueline Law CEO Seapony Limited commented:
“Our fashion industry, can not progress without skilled workers and workers who are legally allowed to work in UK and build their skills, knowledge, career and talent individually and collectively. It should be a sought after profession, within factories or high tech digital hubs that allow the fashion industry to upskill and train skilled machinists, knitwear programmers and garment production specialists from the factory level to the head of Department, should they wish to proceed.
“I support and endorse Jenny Holloway’s position – and further add that skilled knitwear technicians and programmers urgently need support, so skilled workers can be drawn globally to work in UK with UKs leading fashion designers.
“I welcome any initiative that prevents any loss or fragmentation of the critical mass required to sustain an industry. The loss of skilled workers will stymie investment in the fashion industry and this has flow on affects to all suppliers, big and small who service the industry, whether its software, mannequins, fabric, yarn or machinery suppliers.
“Skilled machinist and knitwear technicians need support to stay in UK to work legally and to proceed with their career as it changes and becomes more intelligent through new technologies and more efficient processes.”
Tamara Cincik, secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion added: “Having the Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes MP speaking and equally importantly listening to the packed room of voices from the industry, was a necessary first step in advocating clearly that fashion workers need to be added to the Shortage Occupation Visa List (SOL). There are 5 or so types of engineers on the list, architects are on the list, all are important but they make a fraction of the £32.3bn which fashion makes for the UK economy. The UK fashion manufacturing industry is a fantastic export success story for the UK. However, it is apparent from today’s discussions, that the sector’s growth is held back by the need to hire more talent. This talent frequently is non-domicile, so we would need to hire talent from outside of the UK if we are to turn factories who are at production capacity to factories who have the capability to produce thousands more garments and thus raise contributions to the UK economy.”
Fashion workers are added to the Shortage Occupation Visa List (SOL)
Fashion workers are added to visa quotas when freedom of movement for EU nationals ends
A detailed risk assessment carried out of EU nationals and non EU Nationals working in garment factories
Following our initial meeting, we will now put the recommendations forward to a Government through a Petition letter and continue to work closely with all stakeholder parties involved. We aim to have resolution by October 31st (Brexit date).
Further feedback and developments will be reported in due course.
A big thank-you to the key speakers and all that attended from far and wide. Also big thanks to the Minister for Immigration Caroline Nokes for her address and all the hard work of APPG Fashion Roundtable – for making this meeting happen.