The chief executive and leader of Rochdale Borough Council dropped in on a successful lingerie company made famous by retail guru Mary Portas to see how it is bringing forward the next generation of textile trainees.
Jim Taylor and Councillor Colin Lambert were given a tour by David Moore,
managing director of Headen & Quarmby, an underwear manufacturer that hit the headlines after it appeared in Channel 4 show Mary’s Bottom Line.
Councillor Lambert said: “It is fantastic to visit a successful company that, as well securing its own future, is reinvesting in talent drawn from Rochdale borough by giving them skills for life and ensuring that the tradition of textile manufacturing which made the borough great is continued.”
Mr Taylor said: “This Academy is a little seed that is going to grow and a brilliant example of a business that is not only booming, but which is putting back into the community.”
The Middleton company, formed in 1935 by the grandparents of Mr Moore, has seen production increase and the workforce triple since the television programme featuring Mary Portas in her attempt to reinvigorate British manufacturing by launching her own line of underwear, Kinky Knickers. The company also manufactures garments for big name high street retailers such as BHS, Liberty of London, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Selfridges.
Mr Moore said: “There’s a massive appetite for UK manufactured products and I hope it will continue. As well as ensuring fantastic quality we are now more able to compete on price too. By forming the academy we are ensuring that the latent skills in manufacturing continue and are developed in the local area.”
To ensure it has a workforce with the right skills in garment manufacture, the company created a textile academy in collaboration with Oldham College and which will now also involve Rochdale borough’s Hopwood Hall College. After graduating there is the possibility that some of the trainees could be taken on full-time in the factory or be able to seek employment elsewhere using the expertise they have gained. There are now plans to expand the number of trainees from 15 to 25.
Student Jonny Carroll, 23, of Milnrow, who has already completed a basic six-week sewing skills course and is currently on a more advanced traineeship, said: “I love it. Hopefully there will be a job at the end of it but if not I would like to start my own clothing business one day.”
Makitta Tonge, 23, of Middleton, said: “I’m really enjoying it and hope I can make a career out of it.”
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