Alvanon Identify Unprecedented Skills Crisis In The Fashion Industry

The latest findings reveal 62% of respondents struggling to fill skilled roles creating ‘war for talent’ across the supply chain…

As leading providers of fashion production skills and apprenticeships news of a skills shortage throughout the production side of the fashion industry comes as no surprise. Since setting up The Factory in 2010 we soon realized how vast the skills shortage was which led to the development of the Stitching Academy and Fashion Technology Academy.

This week, 4th October, Global fashion innovation company Alvanon highlight the issue once again, they partnered with 13 leading apparel organizations to survey professionals throughout the fashion industry on the skills gaps, learning and talent development needs within the apparel sector. And now the results are revealed in The State of Skills in the Apparel Industry 2018’ special report, that represents the views of 642 executives, HR leaders, industry practitioners and employees across the international supply chain.

According to the survey report, one of the biggest issues facing brands and vendors is hiring people with the right skills, with 62% of respondents saying they are struggling to fill certain positions. The data further shows that respondents are largely unhappy with the training being provided, and 30% are actively dissatisfied.

Some businesses are likening hiring to a battle, with Sarah McConnell Hays, sourcing manager at childrenswear retailer Carter’s saying: “We are in a war for talent.” The report states that the imperatives for business now include figuring out how to engage employees and provide professional development, or risk losing them.

As the apparel industry begins to recognise and implement digitalisation as a way of delivering on speed, customisation and transparency, it is revealing gaps in the specialized skills set of its workforce,” explained Janice Wang, CEO of Alvanon. “Our survey findings conclude that failure to respond to skill shortages will result in the generalisation of poor market practices and adversely impact business performance across the supply chain.”

She added“Improving the apparel industry by upping its skills is, ultimately, a collective responsibility shared between all players in the value chain and the individual professionals themselves. This survey clearly shows where we need to start and that we need to start immediately.”

The survey is part of Alvanon’s ongoing efforts to address the training and development needs of the apparel industry worldwide. This report aims to highlight labour force challenges faced by the industry and prompt readers to question their own company’s state of affairs in terms of training and strategy or lack of it. The 642 respondents comprised one-third of workers from North America, one-third Asia Pacific, one-fourth Central & South America, the rest from Europe and others.

Jenny Holloway, CEO of Fashion Enter and the FTA comments: “We recognized the apparent skills shortage after we opened The Factory in North London eight years ago. Thanks to Nick Beighton, CEO of, he too realised that without investment in technical skills there was no future for a UK Factory especially when the Brexit vote in June 2016 occurred.

“Nick granted the initial £70k to enable us to open the Stitching Academy in September 2013. At this time we had to write the qualifications for a Level 1 and 2 with ABC Awards, as they just did not exist. That was certainly challenging!

“I went back to night school for four years and trained as a teacher, assessor and then an Internal Quality Auditor. I can’t have the highest standards in training if I know nothing about it. I do like to lead by example. The Stitching Academy was an immediate success and ABC Awards confirmed that today the Stitching Award and certificate is their most popular qualification – a good sign for UK manufacturing.

“However, it was clear that Stitching was only one part of the skills shortage. We needed patterns, CAD, Cutting, Quality Control and hence another conversation with Nick Beighton!

“ supported our bid for the Fashion Technology Academy (FTA) with Haringey Council and provided match funding by way of a soft loan. Without ASOS we could not have opened the FTA. Now we are offering qualifications from Level 1 -5 and we are about to open the Tailoring Academy too – there is no way I can go back to ASOS here! They have already been so generous so we are looking into ways of making the Tailoring Academy work with a range of partners.”

“The aim is to lead by example and it is fantastic to see elements of the FTA being replicated in Leicester, Plymouth and Northern Ireland, however so much more investment is needed to ensure these skills are continually taught and developed in line with garment manufacturing today.”

Below are summary statistics on respondents:

Total Respondents: 1221

Total Completed Surveys: 642

Country Representation: USA (22%), Colombia (16%), UK (5%), Canada (7%), HK (8%), India (8%), Rest of the World (34%)

Language Respondents: English (72%), Spanish (22%), Chinese (4%), French (2%)

Manager Level or Above: (64%) (CEO Level: 16%)

Age Breakdown: 45+Years (47%), 36-45 years (31%), 26-35 years (19%), 18-25 years (3%)

Click here to download the free Alvanon State of Skills report