A local business has been credited with helping to keep Macclesfield’s silk heritage alive by the local Member of Parliament, David Rutley, having introduced a successful apprenticeship scheme with Macclesfield College.
R.A. Smart opened a sewing room at their Bollington site in Spring 2013, and now have a workforce of 19 people based in this facility. Amongst this number, seven have been employed through an apprenticeship in partnership with Macclesfield College. The company bought sewing machines and a cutting table for the College, and a tutor has also been recruited by the College for this course.
The scheme began in April 2014, with four apprentices, and a further three started in October of last year. The students begin by sewing cotton products, including aprons, tea towels and oven gloves, and will then learn how to sew silk once their skills have been developed. Silk products include ties and scarves, and the company are hoping to produce ladies fashion as the next stage of their business plan.
David Rutley, Member of Parliament for Macclesfield, recently visited the site and found out more about how the business has successfully been able to ‘reshore’ traditional manufacturing of products to the UK, which until recently have been produced in Asia.
Speaking at the meeting, business owner Ron Smart said, “I am delighted to be able to bring more silk manufacturing back to Macclesfield. When we first advertised for sewing machinists, there were no applicants, so we had no choice but to recreate these skills.
“The next stage for the business is to begin to produce ladies fashion, once the apprentices are fully skilled. This means that products will be made from start to finish in one location, instead of having different parts of the process completed in different places across the world. Our clients pay more for their products to be made here as opposed to abroad, but they are happy to do so, for better quality, a service which better suits their needs, and of course, the “Made in Britain” badge of approval. It is a contribution to British manufacturing we are happy to make.”
David Rutley added, “It is very positive to see traditional skills in textiles being kept alive by apprentices at R. A. Smart. I would like to thank Ron Smart and Macclesfield College for their part in creating more jobs and keeping Macclesfield’s silk heritage alive.”