Oldham is sew good at helping residents into textiles career

Oldham Council is working closely with partners to boost employment opportunities in an industry made famous by the borough.

The local authority’s Get Oldham Working team is supporting two specialist organisations who are promoting textiles jobs and apprenticeships to local people.

Oldham College’s Sewing Academy and the Alliance Project’s “Textile Teashops” are both looking to recreate the region’s reputation as a powerhouse in the industry.

The academy boasts an impressive success rate with around 80-85 per cent of its students going on to apprenticeships or paid employment in the textile industry.

One of its latest students, Sinead Ingham, had never even used a sewing machine before she enrolled on the course. Now the mother-of-one from Royton is a dab hand working as an apprentice for Oldham manufacturer Trans-Web.

Sinead said: “I’m probably like many new mothers – I did struggle to get back into work after taking care of my baby.

“I wanted to get into the textiles industry years ago but there were not many opportunities locally. I then discovered the sewing academy and it has given me the confidence to build up my skills and helped me in my new role which I’m enjoying.”

Sinead, aged 24, is now a Level 3 Apprentice Sewing Machinist with Trans-Web, who specialise in the design and manufacture of textile lifting slings, height safety equipment and lashing systems. She works at the firm four days a week and goes back to the academy one day-a-week to develop new skills.

The academy is holding a Recruitment Open Day on Tuesday, June 23 (11am) at the Rochdale Road-based college, specifically for unemployed residents claiming benefits who want to learn a new skill for employment in the textile industry.

This will be a four-week course where you will learn to use a variety of machinery and produce a portfolio of sample work as well as sewing your own items.

Beverley Whittaker, course leader, said: “One of the advantages of this retraining opportunity is that unemployed learners can continue to claim benefits whilst gaining new skills at the academy and come out of it with a qualification and possibly employment.

The courses we offer mean we can take people with no previous experience of sewing at all and give them enough skills to be able to go into the industry at a basic level. The experience then comes from working on the job.

“It’s great to see the trainee come to the academy with a lack of confidence, like Sinead, and by the end of the six weeks they are all really enjoying the course and are like different people.

“The Get Oldham Working team have been a big support in helping to promote our offer, find students and inform businesses within the industry.”

The Greater Manchester textiles industry currently employs 11,300 people, generating £650 million for the local economy.  This is set to rise and textiles employers estimate the creation of 400 new jobs each year over the next decade, including 150 sewing machinist vacancies per year.

Those interested in a career in textiles can also pop down to a pop-up teashop at Tommyfield Market on July 3-4 (9am-6pm).

The drop-in workshop includes the chance for the public to meet employers and chat to people from the industry over a cup of tea and slice of cake.

Not only will visitors be able to find out first-hand what a job in a textiles business is really like but they will have the opportunity to get involved in the ‘have-a-go’ factory and create something to take away with them.

Councillor Shoab Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “Greater Manchester is working hard to be a driving force to get more people into the in-demand textiles industry – and it is no exception here in Oldham.

“I believe Oldham is one of the leading boroughs to provide these opportunities and through our Get Oldham Working initiative our team can provide that helping hand to them.

“Textile production in Britain, and indeed Manchester, is becoming economically viable again. So we need to grasp this as a borough and show once more that Oldham can be a part of an industrial revolution.”

Local businesses and organisations interested in providing traineeships, apprentices or jobs for local people can either express interest by visiting on-line at www.oldham.gov.uk/gow  or also send an email to employability@oldham.gov.uk or call 0161 770 4674.

For more information on the Sewing Academy, contact Amanda Walker or Beverley Whittaker on 0161 785 4309/5589 or email: Amanda.walker@oldham.ac.uk or Beverley.whittaker@oldham.ac.uk.

Alternatively visit their Open Day at 11am on Tuesday, June 23.

For more information on the Textiles Teashop roadshows including locations and dates visit www.textilesteashops.co.uk

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Sewing Academy student Sinead Ingham (pictured right) with Beverley Whittaker (course leader) and Councillor Shoab Akhtar, Oldham Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills.