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. Thirteen years ago, 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.
At the time, 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. Ian Scott, Supply Director, said:
Bridgwater & Taunton 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.
A new and innovative training partnership was brokered between Bridgwater & Taunton 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 & Taunton College on the Bridgwater campus, 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 & Taunton College utilises government funding to train the young employee through a recognised apprenticeship programme. Bridgwater & Taunton College and Mulberry work together, sharing the commitment to training and each playing an active role in delivering the skills in-house.
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 & Taunton 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.
The successful relationship between Bridgwater & Taunton College and Mulberry has continued to be fruitful. Alongside other employers within the leather industry; the College and Mulberry joined together to form a trailblazer group to create a new standard that would replace the framework style apprenticeship currently in place. The new Leather Craftsperson Standard (level 2) is now approved for delivery and delivers a wider coverage of the leather industry, producing a well-rounded apprentice who understands the end to end process within leather and leather goods manufacture. The first group of Mulberry apprentices started this qualification in January 2019.