Allsop, Debbie (2017) Examining the Skill Gap in Fashion Education. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This research explores the importance of sewing skills within HE fashion education. Recent
literature has identified significant discussion concerning a graduate skills gap at the onset of employment. Some industry specialists fear that educators are not doing enough to promote the technical side of fashion. As a consequence, there are concerns of a widening gap in the uptake of technical job roles within the fashion sector. This research investigates potential reasons why students might not make these career choices, focusing mainly on the teaching of construction skills through the development of a resource tool to enhance the curriculum to bridge this recognised gap.

To contextualise the development of this project, literature has examined key areas of interest. These include studies relating to skill gaps, manufacture and production techniques as well as the relationship between technical skill and career interests. This research has applied a variety of methodologies, which have explored the skills required for fundamental sewing processes, the value of sewing from educational and industry perspectives and issues relating to the recognised skills gap and career choices. Methods have included object-based study,
interviews with manufacturers and a focus group with second year BA (Hons) fashion design
students undertaking pattern cutting and manufacture sessions. To evaluate the effectiveness of the resource tool of stitch and garment finishing techniques, questionnaires, observations and examinations were conducted with undergraduate students undertaking sewing sessions. This research has revealed that the resource tool was successful in engaging students with garment construction techniques, and that this was most beneficial when used in conjunction with other methods. During testing it was apparent that students preferred to work more creatively, using inventiveness over memory of previously taught sewing skills when producing samples.

Interestingly, the research has also highlighted two distinctions; that further technical knowledge in sewing appears to, in some instances, have limited the creativity of students’ fashion design outcomes when advancing from a foundation to intermediate level of study. However, there is also evidence to suggest that further engagement with sewing had a positive influence on their understanding of garment construction informing feasible design. There appears to be minimal evidence that links strong sewing skill with the ambition to choose careers in the manufacturing sector.

The conclusions from this research, including the testing results from the resource tool,
support the development of a technical curriculum within the BA curriculum, and the
development of a qualification level prior to BA.

FINAL THESIS - ALLSOP.pdf - Accepted Version
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