The glass half empty brigade characterises this country as a land of failed footballers, Eurovision embarrassment and manufacturing meltdown. Andy Murray’s Wimbledon champion but there is no way he will win again. The sun is shining but it means misery for hay fever sufferers.
Unfortunately most of this is true, but one sector of manufacturing is actually doing rather well and its success is based on some of our best virtues: ingenuity, hard work and a desire to deliver the very best we can.
There are nearly 80,000 textile businesses in this country, employing 340,000 people who generate more than £11 billion of revenue every year, and – believe it or not – an increasing number of us are producing our garments entirely in the UK.
I was extremely honoured to be invited to speak at the first Meet the Manufacturer conference where 3000 textile designers, producers and buyers shared a determination to Make it British. I have no doubt that products made overseas are cheap – in more ways than one. We initially struggled to find skilled machinists because they had to find different jobs after the North East’s textile industry was virtually shut down when production was moved abroad. But now we are making a small inroad into the skills gaps by recruiting apprentices who are learning from our skilled and experienced staff. They, in turn, are so happy to be back doing the job they love.
We have a way to go before the glass is full, but there is a momentum and we are telling our schools, colleges and networks – in fact anybody who will listen – not to dismiss the UK’s textile industry. There are jobs and there are factories producing clothing of the highest quality. I shared the platform at Meet the Manufacturer with Mary Portas. She summed it up in a nutshell: “British Manufacturing never died, it just didn’t hire the right PR people.”
Director, The All-in-One Company, Ashington, Northumberland.