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Linen manufacturer tackles skills shortage by teaching people how to sew

In a bid to combat a sewing skills shortage, textile manufacturer, Richard Haworth Ltd, is hosting an event to teach local people how to sew.

As a leading supplier of linens to the UK’s hotel, hospitality and restaurant industry, Richard Haworth has been manufacturing at its Greater Manchester headquarters since 1986. However, the business has identified a genuine shortage of skilled people, who can operate a sewing machine and carry out technical finishing work, to ensure the continuation of its British manufacturing operations. 

Raj Ruia, managing director said, “It is a sad reality that we no longer have individuals entering the workplace with the practical skills we require, such as cutting, sewing and embroidery – all of which are fundamental to our production process. In a world where so many manufacturing lines are turning to AI and robots, and the education system is less focused on equipping students with hands-on skills, we still very much need and want to employ people. It is due to our skilled seamstresses that our products are of the highest quality and our talented team ensures that we continue to surpass the industry standard.”

However, with some of its machinists having been employed for over 40 years, Richard Haworth is now looking to recruit and train up the next generation of employees to join its manufacturing team, and work across its various sewing and hemming stations. 

Ruia continued: “Historically, Kearsley has been a mill town and attracted very local workers, but since so many more people now commute, we hope to attract talent from across the Greater Manchester area. Not only can we offer secure and stable employment, but practical training that will teach employees the skills to plug this very real shortfall.”

Current research shows that there is a “severe labour shortage” in the UK since the focus of education has shifted to STEM, felt across the fashion and textile industries. The Confederation of British Industry also reported in October 2022 that three-quarters of businesses have experienced difficulties filling vacancies and a shortage of workers. 

During Richard Haworth’s Sewing Skills Workshop event, taking place on Monday 23 January 2023, participants will learn how to use a sewing machine and be taught how to hem a tablecloth and create a pillowcase, overseen by production supervisor, Sharon Stevenson. There is no prerequisite for attendance or prior sewing experience or knowledge required.

Local councillor Tracey Wilkinson said: “Encouraging British manufacturing is so important for creating job opportunities in the local area and providing tangible skills to future generations. I personally am unable to machine sew but often wish I could because it would open my skill set for repairing and making my own products, such handmade clothes, which I am a big advocate for.

“I cannot encourage people enough to upskill themselves and potentially find new employment too.”

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