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Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland fashion and textiles sector employs 10,000 people within 1,800 workplaces. Apparel and textiles sub-sectors account for the largest number of businesses.

Workforce statistics:

  • 48% of the workforce is female.
  • 23% are self-employed with a further 23% working on a part-time basis.
  • 50% of the sector are aged over 45 years, many of whom hold key occupations and hard to replace skills.
  • 52% of the workforce is qualified at below NVQ level 2, whilst 24% hold an NVQ level 2 or above. This compares with 26% and 48% respectively for the wider Northern Irish workforce.

Exports in textiles and apparel have been significantly hit by the decline in manufacturing output as companies have taken the opportunity to outsource production, although the world market outside of the UK and the EU has recently shown signs of growth for Northern Irish produced goods.

The majority of the workforce work within process, plant and machine operatives and elementary occupations.

Key drivers of skills demand are:

  • the growth of fast fashion and technical markets
  • the British style
  • adaptation to changing technology
  • the impact of migration
  • the image of the sector
  • the sustainability agenda

Hard-to-fill vacancies were more prevalent than reported at an all sector level in Northern Ireland. Shortages were reported in associate professional, skilled trades and operative occupations. Higher level skills issues were reported in design occupations, with the commercial and technical skills of graduate designers being identified as an issue.

Skills gaps and skills shortages are still highly prevalent within the sector. Gaps were reported in a range of occupations predominantly in operative and elementary positions, but also shortages in design and management roles. Future skills priorities include: improving sales and marketing skills; the recruitment and retention of able young people; and the development of management and leadership skills.

Source: Strategic Skills Assessment for the Fashion and Textiles Sector in Northern Ireland 2010