• APPG Textiles & Fashion

APPG for Textile and Fashion x Fashion Enter: Visas and Employment in the Garment Manufacturing Sect

Monday 8th July 2019


  1. Tamara Cincik Secretariat for the APPG for Textiles and Fashion


  1. Caroline Nokes MP, Minister of State for Immigration

  2. Lord Young of Norwood Green

  3. Jenny Holloway, CEO and Founder of Fashion-Enter

  4. Professor Jonathan Portes, Senior Fellow at The UK in a Changing Europe

  5. Peter Gambrill, Economist for the Migration Advisory Committee

  6. Kate Hills, CEO and Founder of Make it British

  7. Jack Tindale, Policy Manager for Design and Innovation, Policy Connect

Speaker: Caroline Nokes MP, Minister of State for Immigration

  1. Notes the importance of the creative industries for the UK, and that this is at least the fourth event about the creative industries that the Minister has attended recently

  2. The Home Office is undertaking one year of engagement with industries on the proposed post Brexit skills-based immigration system

Jenny Holloway, CEO of Fashion Enter

  1. The skill level of machinists are not recognised in government standards, according to data being collected by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion, 81% of manufacturers believe fashion machinists are highly skilled, and the rest of respondents believe machinists are medium skilled

  2. Issue with salary threshold being too high, £30,000 is not a realistic wage for machinists, the average pay according to respondents is £11 – £19.

James Stewart, Burberry

  1. There is a disconnect between skills and salary. Machinists are under-valued in and by the fashion industry, when in fact they are very skilled.

Caroline Nokes MP

  1. Questions whether salary is a good proxy for skill

  2. Questions how to best reflect the worth and value of a job role

  3. Notes that different skills have to be defined, but this is not a straight-forward task.

Floor – Dawn Foxall, Foxology

  1. We need to teach skills and work ethic.

  2. £30,000 threshold does not acknowledge regional disparities: it goes nowhere in London, whereas in Castleford £30,000 goes a lot further because the cost of living is lower, for example, people can walk to work.

Charlie Baker-Collingwood, Henry Herbert Tailors

  1. As well as skilled workers, there is a need for good managers to inspire work ethic

  2. It appears that UK graduates are interested in the glamour of the fashion industry rather than in the craft skills

  3. From their experience, EU workers have the craft and technical skills lacking in the UK workforce

Caroline Nokes MP

  1. The UK cannot rely on immigration to solve challenges in its labour force; the lack of skills needs to be dealt with via education

  2. The problem of Brexit will not come from the current EU nationals leaving, but instead from EU migrants not being able to enter

  3. Even though immigration is negative for some EU countries (e.g. Polish citizens are leaving the country), it remains positive for other EU countries such as Romania

  4. Emphasis on the importance of listening to different industries to make sure that immigration policy will not be harmful for the UK economy.

Tamara Cincik

  1. The importance of a coherent government strategy for encouraging the growth of the sector, one department cannot be emphasising the importance of STEAM when the DfE is promoting STEM through the EBacc

  2. It is difficult to find sewers for UK manufacturing if children and young adults have never sewed in school, hence why it is so difficult for Jennifer Holloway at Fashion-Enter to find skilled domestic labour.

Caroline Nokes MP

  1. The Minister noted that her personal view on education is to encourage children and youth to be passionate about something: “Passion is the most important thing for any child to have towards their learning.”

Tamara Cincik

  1. There is an underappreciation of the arts in relation to other sectors, the arts generate more than banking and the car industry, with fashion as the largest component of the creative sector

  2. It is necessary to encourage domicile talent to support the sector.

Jenny Holloway

  1. It is problematic that secondary school education does not support needlework and stitching as previously. The agenda is different. T-levels are vitally important but they need esteemed parity with A levels. There is support for Tlevels with manufacturing.

Caroline Nokes MP

  1. Students need to have the option of studying a variety of qualifications, and the reputation and value of art and STEM subjects should be equal

Alastair Knox, CEO of ASBCI

  1. As a voice of suppliers to industry, I am keen to make the education system work, providing skilled workforce. We currently endorse the Handcraft Tailor Scholarship Award, coordinated by the Handcraft Tailor Academy – with support from Dugdale Bros & Co., The Textile Institute and the ASBCI

  2. Drew parallels with Navid Neiper’s Academy.

  3. David Leaper Company took the initiative and have built links with local schools to develop home grown talent and not rely just on overseas skilled labour

Caroline Nokes MP

  1. The need to invest in how manufacturers are attracting people, for example, the Minister spoke to the CEO of a factory firm, who had not advertised for 10 years and was wondering why they have no skilled staff

Helen Lax Director of Fashion District

  1. Schools need to encourage careers in Fashion and arts other than the bits into all the other possible routes

  2. T-Levels and other technical and creative qualifications provide a 360 qualification

  3. It is no longer the case that generations from the same families work in manufacturing, and families working for generations in manufacturing are encouraging their children to enter other professions.

  4. The career pipeline needs to be refreshed, as employees are not going in, in the way they used to

Jenny Holloway

  1. It takes 5-6 years for a machinist to be trained to a high standard

Caroline Nokes MP

  1. The Home Office consultation for the new immigration system will be open until 2021, and government appreciates the importance of getting it right

10:27 Caroline Nokes MP leaves

Tamara Cincik Introduces Lord Young of Norwood Green

Speaker: Lord Young

  1. Noted that it is very positive that the Minister was present and engaging

  2. Seeking to train with local schools and be more than just a think tank

  3. In speaking to manufacturers, Lord Young noticed that many graduates do not know how to make the garments they design, and it is frustrating that Fashion degrees are deficient in this aspect

Jenny Holloway

  1. At FEL their Fashion Technology Academy offers training and qualifications in all aspects of fashion production from level 1 – 5

  2. The £30,000 threshold is based on a weak assumptions that high wage is indicative of high skill and a low wage is indicative of low skill

  3. Retailers both within the UK and overseas are looking for local production, which offers a potential for growth within the UK.

  4. Emphasis on the importance of maintaining high quality of working conditions if the sector is going to further expand

  5. The technology used at FEL secures transparency at all stages of production.

Lord Young

  1. Factories need to pay minimum wage and think about London wage

  2. UK offer greater work flexibility, the full-time model is no longer fitting for the UK labour force

Tamara Cincik

  1. The government needs to reduce legal hurdles, so that it becomes easier to employ skilled staff overseas

Lord Young

  1. Good working standards are essential if the aim is to make the industry and job more attractive to youth and graduates

Jenny Holloway

  1. There is a need to recognise that fast fashion is not a dirty word, fast means lower quantities of buys that sell out so there is less waste and greater sell-through. Production can be made 2-3 weeks so it’s trend lead and hence best seller.


  1. Jenny is opening a Tailoring Academy thanks to the GLA’s Good Growth Fund but are currently finding it difficult to employ highly skilled tailors.

Jenny introduces Yan sample machinist who has worked with her for several years and could bring other Chinese staff who are well trained, but cannot without a visa.

Jenny Holloway

  1. FEL “desperate” for highly trained staff to fulfil growing orders; lost 2 immediately after the Brexit vote, and another 6 since

  2. Yan brought 3 highly skilled machinists to meet Jenny, but they could not be employed because they did not have the correct visa

Speaker: UK in Changing Europe Deputy Director – Jonathan Portes

  1. Impact of Brexit has been estimated at 2.3% to the UK economy

  2. The value of the pound fell

  3. Labour market is resilient at all time high mostly full-time

  4. Last few months have seen the worst impacts, due to the uncertainty of how Brexit will be carried out

  5. There has been a reduction in business investments

  6. Economic growth slowing and will potentially become stagnant


  1. The fall of half million in immigration is not that substantial

  2. The change of regime provides an opportunity for a more lenient immigration policies, as Theresa May has been the most restrictive PM in living memory in terms of immigration


Speaker: Peter Gambrill, Migration Advisory Committee

  1. The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) is a list of job titles that have a shortage of workers in the UK, and recognises the need for overseas workers to fill the positions

  2. Being on the SOL grants certain expectations in the Tier 2 Visas, such as not having to meet the £37,000 threshold after five years and not having to pass the Resident Labour Market Test (RMLT)

  3. Decisions about occupations that should be added to the SOL are made using a two-pronged approach: use of indicators such as the number of vacancies advertised, and feedback from stakeholders

  4. Arts and fashion were not on SOL but eligible for Tier 2

Questions directed to Jonathan and Peter

  1. The role being discussed (machine operator) is not a creative or artistic job, so it cannot be grouped with the ‘creative jobs in the creative sectors such as artists and designers

  2. Temporary migration routes are being re-evaluated, but one year is not enough and is not viable for the workers employed in the sector, who are mostly mothers and need to consider schools, etc.

  3. If immigration becomes restrictive to the point that businesses are struggling to recruit, it becomes an incentive for businesses to relocate to other European countries, and the UK will import rather than produce products

  4. The MAC uses the ONS skills hierarchy in combination with other indicators to determine skill levels, but it is clear that this does not capture the skills necessary for the work of a machinist

  5. Apprenticeships have a low take-up, and the system has to be improved

Speaker: Kate Hills, CEO and Founder of Make it British

  1. Make it British came from the need to connect designers and buyers

  2. Production in the UK is becoming more attractive, as margins are shirking, it is no longer cheaper to produce in India

  3. Retailers are looking to produce in the UK, but manufacturers are limited on resources and cannot meet the demand

  4. One of the main constraints to growth is the lack of skilled workers

  5. Garment manufacturing currently generates £9bn to the economy, a figure that could double if manufacturers could employ more staff

  6. Many manufacturers in the UK are micro companies, which employ less than 10 staff

  7. If retailers are not able to satisfy their demand from UK manufacturers, they have an incentive to move to suppliers in other EU countries

Tamara Cincik introduces John McNally MP

John McNally MP, Falkirk

  1. Was very impressed by Fashion-Enter

  2. There is a skills crisis in the UK, as not enough people are interested in highly specific jobs. Another example is with butchers

  3. If the UK garment manufacturing industry is not attractive to buyers, they will choose to supply their products from another country

Kate Hills

  1. The government and industry needs to act now to ensure that the potential for growth is taken advantage of

Tamara Cincik

  1. The fashion industry is missing a coherent and unified voice, from manufacturing to sales, to advocate for the industry’s needs

  2. The uncertainty of Brexit and the change in consumer behaviour is already proving harmful to the fashion industry, and it cannot risk not taking advantage of the interest of brands supplying to the UK

Speaker: Jack Tindale, Policy Manager for Design & Innovation, Policy Connect

  1. For the T-levels to be successful, they have to be given the same recognition as A-levels

  2. The success of T-levels will only be seen in the long-term, approximately 10 years

  3. The 5 term cycle of politics means that politicians do not have an incentive to implement long-term programmes or wait for successes

  4. The change in PM means that many policy strategies will be changed, the change will be more dramatic in the case of a general election

  5. Stakeholders and industry need to communicate to new government what policies are working and what policies they do not want changed

  6. There is a lot of potential for tech and innovation in the fashion industry, which is attractive to investment

  7. Example of space material, which is a combination of technology and fabric


  1. Apprenticeships require innovation – they should not replicate a centuries old model

  2. Apprenticeships have dropped 15-20%, but this is not grounds for worry

  3. London saw a drop in 13%

  4. The North of the UK saw a drop in 33%

  5. It is important to strive for gender parity in apprenticeships

  6. Apprenticeships need to be attractive to young people, as is the case in Germany

  7. Apprenticeships need to be more representative of the UK

Questions directed to Jack Tindale

Tamara Cincik

  1. Asks what is the position of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party in regard to apprenticeships

Jack Tindale

  1. Sees appetite for apprenticeships from both parties

  2. The national education service is not limited to university

  3. Brexit takes up a lot of space in Parliament, leaving little room for other matters such as education to be discussed

  4. There has to be a push from industry

James Stewart

  1. Mentions a visit to Sheffield

  2. What is the likelihood of government sponsoring apprenticeship programmes?

Jack Tindale

  1. Notes that Sheffield’s industrial strategy is very strong

  2. The government has finite resources, and will focus on the strongest areas, or the areas with the most potential

John McNally MP

  1. Northern powerhouses want their own systems and say that government could improve dialogue with stakeholders

Jack Tindale

  1. Notes that elected mayors are good at speaking with the community

  2. Recommends speaking to mayors as they can be more effective than waiting for government

Lord Young

  1. Notes that the apprenticeship levy system needs an update

  2. Notes that a review of Higher Education is necessary

Tamara Cincik asks manufacturers from Leicester how heard and represented they feel by their local governments


Alkesh Kapadia, Barcode Fashion

  1. Has tried to set up a training academy but had no support from local government

  2. There are too many Fashion Design graduates but no machinists, and the Fashion Design students are not learning skills to produce what they design

  3. Their factory currently employs 55 workers and have vacancies, but there are no workers to fill those vacancies

  4. There is also a lot of competition between factories to hire graduates

Tamara Cincik asks if they have met their local MP

John McNally

  1. Noted his work with the Environmental Audit Committee, which looked at fast fashion and manufacturers in Leicester

James Stewart

  1. The fashion industry requires constant production to satisfy demand

  2. Compared the fashion manufacturing industry to the car manufacturing industry because of the continuous production and the need for local manufacturing

Floor – Fionnuala Horrocks Burns, Skills and Education Policy Advisory, British Retail Consortium

  1. Attempt at engaging manufacturers got very little traction

  2. The lack of skilled workers might be a case of perception or of structure

Kate Hills

  1. Thinks it is a case of perception, as the government is not aware of the skills and jobs needed in the garment manufacturing sector

  2. There is no longer a ‘dressmaker’ role, but this is listed as an occupation

Fionnuala Horrocks Burns, British Retail Consortium

  1. A culture change is necessary to encourage interest in these jobs

  2. There used to be pride in working in mills

Jack Tindale

  1. English garment manufacturing has a very strong legacy, an example is Savile Row tweed

Kate Hills

  1. People assume that clothes sold in Savile Row are made in Savile Row

Fionnuala Horrocks Burns

  1. People do not understand what factory work entails, and it carries a negative image

12:00 meeting finished, thanks to everyone who attended

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