We visit factories, makers, material suppliers and workshop facilities every week and we know that a fantastic workforce is not only the secret to running a manufacturing business, but it's also crucial in allowing us to retain essential craftsmanship and making skills.
The prospect of having an extra pair of hands bringing in a fresh perspective might sound pretty promising, especially with high levels of unemployment and an ageing workforce across the manufacturing industries.
To explore the issue further, we’ve asked some of the manufacturing companies that we work with about their experience of working with apprentices and interns.
Centre for Advanced Textiles CAT Centre are a commercial digital fabric printer based in Glasgow. Production includes digital print on a range of silk, linen and cotton.
We asked Alan Shaw from CAT Centre about how the internships that they offer.
“Over the past 5 –10 years we have offered an internship to current GSA students and also to external students and individuals who wish to further their knowledge of Digitally printing Textiles. The internship covers all the main functions of the centre so the individuals get to experience our whole process, from initial sampling and design work through to production, finishing and shipping. We find this is often something students have little experience of, and it really helps them link the design process to the manufacturing of the textiles. We also find this gives them a good general understanding of how the Centre works rather than concentrating on one small area as is often the case with internships. For us, internships introduce new personalities to our workplace and we find that we can also learn from them as well as sharing our knowledge with them.”
Trakke produce messenger bags that are handmade in Glasgow, using materials from Scottish suppliers.
We asked Alec Farmer about his experience of working with interns.
“At Trakke, we’ve had a few interns over the years. Sometimes we need an extra pair of hands, short-term for a specific event, but we find that internships lasting three months or more are the most successful. We throw them in at the deep end, giving them an overview of as many jobs within the company as we can. They gain experience of the inner workings of a small company, learning about everything from manufacturing to marketing, customer service to shipping orders.
Wherever possible, we try to give them briefs to complete during their time here, and sometimes their solutions end up being adopted long-term, which benefits us as a company, but also gives them knowledge and experience that proves invaluable on their CV. Often, when interns apply, they expect to be doing one job that pertains to their specialism. If they are a product designer, they expect to be doing product design. However, we feel that it’s important to broaden the scope of their specialism. It’s one thing to design a product, but selling it in the real world is a completely different ball game - one that requires real world experience to perfect.
We keep in touch with all of our interns when they leave, following their progress as they advance through university and begin to find work elsewhere. In fact our newest member of staff, Madeleine, started her career at Trakke as an intern. Her time here allowed her to prove her worth, and demonstrate that she fits well into our team. She began working with us on an exhibition we hosted at The Lighthouse in Glasgow, but today she acts as our Studio Assistant!”
MYB Textiles are based in East Ayrshire and produce luxury lace and madras fabrics on Nottingham Lace and electronic Jacquard looms. Here’s what Sherry Kirkpatrick – who recently spoke at our Pecha Kucha – has to say about the value of interns and apprentices.
“MYB have been very pro-active over the years taking on apprentices from colleges & universities, ensuring we are passing on important skills to a younger workforce. We are very aware that our workforce are getting to an age where some are near retiring and we see it as imperative to train younger apprentices to pass on MYB’s skills. We try to be constantly involved in programmes that encourage the younger generation to be interested in design together with the deep heritage of lace manufacturing. I have visited many local schools over the years and given presentations to pupils on careers day to try and encourage them to take opportunities that may arise with MYB in the future.
In March of this year I was involved, along with Delphine from Louis Vuitton, in being a professional judge on a panel selecting 5 best projects to be presented as part of the final degree show at Galashiels University. The theme was lace and how it can be re-created or re-invented to produce fashion garments. It was fascinating to see what the students created and their contemporary interpretations of lace. We are also involved in a programme called Future Textiles at Dumfries House, which runs from the 28th -1st May 2015.
This is an industry partnership which introduces weaving in a workshop format. The six participants, who are either a school leaver or unemployed and aged between 16-24 years old, will gain the skills & knowledge of weaving and the textiles manufacturing industry. This involves finding out about the equipment, weaving processes and language used in the mill; being given factory tours and even developing their own tweed samples which are evaluated by representatives from Scottish Mills.
We’ve had a good number of apprentices and new people coming through the doors ourselves. For example, six years ago, our design team took on Kashka Lennon for work experience. She worked with us as part of her Textile Clothing Manufacturing degree course from Galashiels. After giving Kashka two summer placements we then were in a position to offer her a full time Design job designing lace. More recently MYB took on Gemma Yeudall who obtained her work experience in our sales department. She has achieved an SVQ Level 3 in Business Administration and is now part of our Sales Team full time.
Hopefully by being involved in programmes and taking on students for work placements in every department we will ensure the younger generation are passed on vital skills that ensure MYB’s survival in the textile industry in the future."
Have you got something to tell us about your experience of having an intern or apprentice? Let us know and we'll add it to this article.