Alvanon, Features

How Are You Going to Retain Your Workforce?

We are in a war for talent. The modern workplace demands a lot: an evolving set of skills in addition to a sound understanding of industry fundamentals. That may be why big fashion retailers, brands, manufacturers, and vendors are facing a real shortage of workers with key, specialized skills.

We at Alvanon recognize the importance of lifelong learning as a critical part of the Future of Work. The next generation demands opportunities for continuous professional development – criteria they’re often using to decide whether they want to stay with a firm or not. The modern learner is time-poor and requires learning that is mobile, flexible and on demand. We’ve suspected there are serious skill and talent gaps within apparel organizations for some time – the last generation who possess hands-on experience in factories and deep industry knowledge are now between 55 to 75 years old.

So, eight months ago we set out to validate whether industry executives and employees felt there was a growing skills gap in our industry and to gauge the importance placed on lifelong learning. We launched our first State of the Industry Skills survey last year that goes far in addressing a burning question: Where are the skills gaps and what are companies doing about them?

The results, revealed in “The State of Skills in the Apparel Industry 2018” special report, represent the views of 642 executives, HR leaders, industry practitioners and employees across the international supply chain. Through that survey we know one of the biggest issues facing brands and vendors is hiring people with the right skills, 62 percent of respondents said they are struggling to fill certain positions. The data further show that respondents are largely unhappy with the training being provided, and 30 percent are actively dissatisfied.

Some businesses are likening hiring to a battle, Sarah McConnell Hays, sourcing manager at children’s wear retailer Carter’s says: “We are in a war for talent.” The imperatives for businesses are now reframed as: Figure out how to engage employees and provide professional development, or risk losing them.

As the apparel industry begins to recognize and implement digitalization as a way of delivering on speed, customization and transparency, it is revealing gaps in the specialized skills set of its workforce. Our survey findings conclude that failure to respond to skill shortages will result in the generalization of poor market practices and adversely impact business performance across the supply chain.

Improving the apparel industry by upping its skills is, ultimately, a collective responsibility shared between all players in the value chain and the individual professionals themselves. This survey shows where we need to start and that we need to start immediately.

The survey is part of Alvanon’s ongoing efforts to address the training and development needs of the apparel industry worldwide. This report aims to highlight labor force challenges faced by the industry and prompt readers to question their own company’s state of affairs in terms of training and strategy or lack of it.

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