Fashion struggles for skilled staff
The New Zealand fashion industry is growing but there is an on-going shortage of skilled staff to fill new positions, according to a new report.
The survey was commissioned by NZ Fashion Tech, a tertiary fashion training institute in Auckland and Wellington, to establish the current and future needs of the local fashion industry.
More than 150 local high-end fashion houses, individual designers, technical garment producers through to marine and other specialist producers took part in the survey, including Bendon, Karen Walker, Trelise Cooper and Hallensteins.
The respondents were asked about their place in the industry in terms of economic, training and career advancement within their company and NZ Fashion Tech managing director Kevin Smith said the results of the survey will surprise a lot of people.
The report suggests it is a time of growth for many companies in the industry. As they grow from smaller operations - 67 per cent employ less than five staff - into larger businesses, it is predicted that as many as 128 new positions will be created within the industry in the next 12 months.
But many a massive skill shortage was reported, with 95 per cent of those surveyed saying they find it moderately to extremely difficult to find well-trained, experienced staff, especially in the face of an aging workforce.
The fastest growing area of employment is off-shore manufacturing, which Smith said requires a new set of skills. He says this has meant a change to some of the subjects being taught in tertiary institutes.
They need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely to make sure that something that is being made in Sri Lanka and another thing made in Thailand end up being in the same thread, same sizing, same construction, so they go together when are they are delivered to the shop in New York or Europe or wherever it is."
''They are not trained in necessary languages that dominate the textile trade in a technical sense. Mandarin should be understood," one respondent said in the survey.
"And much of what is produced by local manufacturers is heading offshore, as the export market grows."
"When we did the survey originally in 1997 hardly anyone was exporting, and now it's about 70 per cent," said Smith.
Forty one per cent of exports are destined for Austraila, with 39 per cent heading to Asia, the US and Pacific, and the UK and Europe taking the remaining 20 per cent.
"But [if they are going to export] they've got to be smart and they've got to get a name or something exclusive to carry the extra costs of doing it in New Zealand. So we've kind of become the boutique of the world."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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