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The Scottish fashion and textiles sector employs 23,000 people within 5,500 workplaces. The gross value added for the sector is estimated to stand at £600 million. Of the sub-sector, apparel and sewn products accounts for the largest area of employment.

Workforce statistics:

  • 61% of the workforce is female.
  • 16% are self-employed with a further 24% working on a part-time basis.
  • 47% of the sector are aged over 45 years, many of whom hold key occupations and hard to replace skills.
  • 42% of the workforce is qualified at below SVQ level 2, whilst 32% hold an SVQ level 2 or above. This compares with 18% and 55% respectively for the wider Scottish workforce.

Exports in textiles and apparel have been significant areas of strength for Scotland and represent an area in which high value Scottish produced goods have been successful in finding markets.

Compared to the wider Scottish economy, employment in the sector is heavily concentrated in lower skilled occupations (operatives and elementary occupations) together with managerial positions and skilled trades. On the other hand, the sector is under-represented in professional, associate professional and administrative occupations when compared to employment the wider economy.

Key drivers of skills demand are:

  • the growth of fast fashion and technical markets
  • the Scottish 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 Scotland. 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 managers, administrative and sales occupations. Technical and practical skills, such as upskilling, planning and organising skills were the main skills found lacking by employers, both far higher than seen nationally.

The Borders employ the largest number of people within the sector with more textiles and apparel employment located there than in any other unitary authority area. Dry cleaning and laundry employment is roughly proportional to the size of the population reflecting its service status, whilst footwear and leather is heavily represented in Renfrewshire and neighbouring Glasgow city.

Skills requirements are similar within both the Lowlands and Highlands and Islands with sewn products operatives and production management occupations both featuring within the respective top three skills shortages and gaps.

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