Employer Case Study: Mulberry
Reputation and quality mean everything in the world of luxury leather goods—so handbags and accessories manufacturer Mulberry has to be just as discerning as its A-list clients when it comes to employing and training the right craftspeople to make its fine range of products.
Mulberry's highly experienced and talented workforce demonstrated that they could hold their own on quality against the likes of Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, whose handbags are vying for the same shoulders, but over recent years the average age of operational staff had been increasing, and the company was finding it increasingly difficult to replace retiring staff with suitably skilled new recruits.
The obvious answer was to recruit unskilled staff, and to train them in specialist cutting, stitching and skiving—but with no suitable technical training available, this was not an option.
No apprenticeship scheme existed to cover the specific needs of a luxury leather goods manufacturer like Mulberry, so the firm turned to outside training providers for help.
"Bridgwater College were the most accommodating and helpful of all the colleges we looked at—and even though they did not have a leather goods apprenticeship set up, they did have other experience and knew how an apprenticeship should work", said Ian Scott, Supply Director.
A new and innovative training partnership was brokered between Bridgwater College and Mulberry by the Sector Skills Council for fashion and textiles, Skillfast-UK.
This partnership allows Mulberry to train their apprentices in the workplace using the company's own expert employees, materials, equipment and techniques that employees utilise every day. Half a day each week is then spent with lecturers from Bridgwater College in an on-site classroom, where apprentices build up skills such as communication and teamwork, study the history of the leather-working industry and learn technical information, including the different types of leather and their applications.
Bridgwater College utilises government funding to train the young employee through a recognised apprenticeship programme. Bridgwater College and Mulberry work together, sharing the commitment to training and each playing an active role in delivering the skills in-house. For Mulberry this has meant that the company no longer has to choose between what is right for the business, and what training and public funding is available. It can now train new recruits using a nationally-recognised and publicly-funded qualification specific to its business needs.
"It is so important that we are continuing to develop our craft skills, which is why we wanted to start an apprenticeship scheme to introduce young people into the company and build up skills - and we are using our experienced skilled workforce to train the younger employees".
"Bridgwater College are brilliant to us and really flexible and do everything they can to help us. We're really delighted with them and would recommend them to anyone."
“The enthusiasm and vision of Mulberry, and the responsiveness of the College, meant that this partnership moved from the concept stage to fruition in just a few months - delivering a unique Apprenticeship programme which incorporates an NVQ in Leather Goods Manufacture." - Ian Scott, Mulberry Supply Director.