The Euratex (European Apparel and Textile Confederation) General Assembly which was held on June 13, 2019, at Brussels, hosted international experts presenting the challenges and possible solutions to tackle the issue of attracting young and skilled workforce in the textile and clothing sector. Over 120 participants attended the annual event.

The event was a unique opportunity to hear testimonials from different countries and contexts, with speakers offering insights in dealing with the problem of attracting talent and encouraging skills development. Although the industry is witnessing a period of positive evolution – since 2012 turnover has grown by 10 per cent to €178 bn, extra-EU exports are up by 23 per cent and have reached €50 bn for the first time, and labour productivity has grown an impressive 22 per cent – it still faces significant challenges, the biggest one being the difficulty of recruiting and retaining skilled workforce, according to Euratex.

In the opening session of the event, newly-elected Euratex President Alberto Paccanelli said, “Companies hiring today not only look for young people with the same skill sets as the retiring workforce, but also new talent with creative, highly technical and digital skills for high added value jobs in design, product development, technical textile production, digitalisation, sustainability, and circular economy.”

The Director for skills of the European commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Manuela Geleng, gave an overview of the policies and programmes being developed by the EU to support upskilling and training of workforce. She reminded the audience that the EU countries on average spend 4.6 per cent of GDP on initial education, but only 0.1 per cent on continuous life-long learning, which is very ill adapted to today’s fast changing work environments and skill needs.

International speakers from the industry, national, and regional initiatives and vocational education and training institutions presented their success stories, offering a look at the situation in different countries. Common issues emerged, as well as clear solutions: A need for a new approach and changes in company culture are necessary to attract the new generation. Close collaboration between industry and training institutions is the key to the development of skilled professionals and the growth of the sector. Euratex appealed to policy makers at the EU, national and regional level to accompany and support the sectorial stakeholders in their efforts to provide world-class textile and clothing education and training across Europe.