QHQ talk about facing the key fashion industry recruitment challenges of 2018

By Kate Berry & Sally Blaxall QHQ (q-hq.com)

#1: Brexit

It is vital that the Brexit deal includes the continued opportunity for international talent to work within Europe and the UK without restriction. The industry thrives on the movement of talent, ideas and innovation, particularly on the technical sideand we hope to see a future where international opportunities increase. The UK has a reputation for producing consultants with very strong technical skills - international brands are currently recruiting across for technical skills and often look to the UK market for expertise.

Certain sectors in fashion manufacturing are heavily dependent on skills from Europe. For example, pattern cutters, graders and CAD technicians and sample cutters are frequently from Eastern Eu-rope. In recent times, 80% of our job applicants for pattern cutters and graders roles were not UK nationals. These are all professions, using CAD systems e.g. Gerber, Vertigraph - skills which are internationally very transferrable. In the past decade, this sector of the industry has been very buoyant. Currently, many of these people work flexibly from their home nations and travel to the UK during peak seasons e.g. for London Fashion Week. There is now some uncertainty about how Brexit will affect these working practices - leading to an unpredictable job market and possible skills shortage.

In the opposite direction – QHQ have recently been recruiting for positions in Switzerland, France and Germany that would normally attract multi-lingual candidates back to their home country. We have some excellent candidates from Europe who are currently living in UK but they do not wish to apply for these roles as they don’t want to risk leaving the UK before they reach five years of conti-nuous residency.

At the moment, UK candidates applying for European positions are not largely affected but there is still a general lack of understanding of Brexit and hesitancy to move in the current climate. We pre-dict that the numbers of European / International Technologists permanently resident in the UK will probably remain fairly stable and static for another one to two years until Brexit has settled and people are confident to move around internationally…and then there will be an exodus.

 #2: Encouraging longevity in the industry  There is a shortage of good experienced garment technologists who are ready to manage their own department within Retail. We question if this is because this is the age and level when people start to leave the industry. Quite a lot of people start thinking about freelancing or working part-time at this point in their careers due to family circumstances. Others get sidetracked into product devel-opment or managing their own business alongside freelance work to supplement their income.  There is also a shortage of Supplier Garment Technologist candidates across the industry. The ma-jority of Garment Technologists want to work in Retail, as it offers bigger salaries, bonuses and packages – these are not offered by suppliers. Suppliers often reject candidates because of a lack of retail knowledge or because they are not able to represent the brand well enough to customers - or because they are pattern technologists rather than garment technologists. It’s important to find the right role for a person so that they feel able to stay in the job, which is better for the industry as a whole. A more flexible approach to employment across the fashion industry would also be benefi-cial in the long term.  Sally:  “We feel that inflexibility in the work place does not help people stay in the industry. At this stage, candidates often want to travel to broaden their experience – if a role doesn’t offer this, they may feel they have to move elsewhere. Or they want more flexible roles due to family circumstances and the industry as a whole does not really offer flexible working, so they go freelance instead.”

#2: Encouraging longevity in the industry

There is a shortage of good experienced garment technologists who are ready to manage their own department within Retail. We question if this is because this is the age and level when people start to leave the industry. Quite a lot of people start thinking about freelancing or working part-time at this point in their careers due to family circumstances. Others get sidetracked into product devel-opment or managing their own business alongside freelance work to supplement their income.

There is also a shortage of Supplier Garment Technologist candidates across the industry. The ma-jority of Garment Technologists want to work in Retail, as it offers bigger salaries, bonuses and packages – these are not offered by suppliers. Suppliers often reject candidates because of a lack of retail knowledge or because they are not able to represent the brand well enough to customers - or because they are pattern technologists rather than garment technologists. It’s important to find the right role for a person so that they feel able to stay in the job, which is better for the industry as a whole. A more flexible approach to employment across the fashion industry would also be benefi-cial in the long term.

Sally: “We feel that inflexibility in the work place does not help people stay in the industry. At this stage, candidates often want to travel to broaden their experience – if a role doesn’t offer this, they may feel they have to move elsewhere. Or they want more flexible roles due to family circumstances and the industry as a whole does not really offer flexible working, so they go freelance instead.”

 #3: Promoting new talent  QHQ are continuing to workwith universities – through internships and sponsorship to provide ca-reer advice to young people in the industry. In 2017, QHQ awarded a bursary to fashion student, Natasha Osaro-Osaghae to enable her continue her technical training at the Fashion Technology Academy in London. Our intention is to award another bursary this year. For the past two years, QHQ have visited Northampton University to present to students and will visit Manchester Metro-politan University fashion students later this year. We try to encourage the students to gain as much experience as they can.Competition for good work placements is very high, and this really reflects the value that employers put on a good years’ work experience to compliment a degree. We rec-ommend choosing a University course that includes a year out working in the industry. It can be easier to find internships or work experience via contacts at University, rather than trying to an un-paid internship when students have finished studying.  Kate:  “Responsibility seems to be the key – employers are looking for graduates who have developed their skills during their year in industry and have the confidence to manage their own product or department i.e. not just shadowing or acting as assistants. Employers are expecting a lot more at entry level now and really want candidates that can hit the ground running.   You can also read this article on Fashion United  https://fashionunited.uk/news/fashion/qhq-talk-about-facing-the-key-fashion-industry-recruitment-challenges-of-2018/2018040528970

#3: Promoting new talent

QHQ are continuing to workwith universities – through internships and sponsorship to provide ca-reer advice to young people in the industry. In 2017, QHQ awarded a bursary to fashion student, Natasha Osaro-Osaghae to enable her continue her technical training at the Fashion Technology Academy in London. Our intention is to award another bursary this year. For the past two years, QHQ have visited Northampton University to present to students and will visit Manchester Metro-politan University fashion students later this year. We try to encourage the students to gain as much experience as they can.Competition for good work placements is very high, and this really reflects the value that employers put on a good years’ work experience to compliment a degree. We rec-ommend choosing a University course that includes a year out working in the industry. It can be easier to find internships or work experience via contacts at University, rather than trying to an un-paid internship when students have finished studying.

Kate: “Responsibility seems to be the key – employers are looking for graduates who have developed their skills during their year in industry and have the confidence to manage their own product or department i.e. not just shadowing or acting as assistants. Employers are expecting a lot more at entry level now and really want candidates that can hit the ground running.

You can also read this article on Fashion United https://fashionunited.uk/news/fashion/qhq-talk-about-facing-the-key-fashion-industry-recruitment-challenges-of-2018/2018040528970