Harris Tweed weavers are being encouraged to have their skills officially recognised to secure the long term future of top quality weaving on the islands.
The skills and training programme recently taught 10 new Harris Tweed weavers who are now establishing themselves as self employed weavers. In a further part of the scheme, the Harris Tweed industry is encouraging its experienced weavers to gain their accreditation in order to demonstrate the value and high standards of weaving which will be recognised by this award. Having a skilled workforce including weavers and mill staff remains an important priority for the industry as it continues to promote Harris Tweed across international markets.
The programme is being delivered by Cardonald College which has designed the assessment process and will award the formal SVQ qualification. Kirsty Scott of Upper Quartile, the company managing the project, said: "The reviews will recognise existing skills, give feedback, and provide any further training for those who might welcome this opportunity."
The project has received funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and the European Social Fund (ESF).
HIE's Margaret Macleod said: "We are delighted to be working closely with the mills and weavers on the project. The experienced weavers have a wealth of skills and to ensure these are recognised and passed to future generations we want to encourage them to support the qualification. The programme aims to bring new weavers up to the same high standards and it is valuable if our experienced weavers can lead the way for the young people of the future."
Accrediting the existing Harris Tweed weavers is part of the wider Harris Tweed Skills programme, which has already led to new training opportunities for mill staff, while re-establishing formal training for new weavers.
Evelyn Macdonald from Stornoway has been weaving for nearly 11 years and was recently awarded with the SVQ qualification. She said: "It's really great that existing weavers of any age are taking up this training as it makes sense to have a formal qualification. Not just anyone can have a go at weaving - you need to be up to a certain standard and this qualification will definitely make a difference to the longer term of weaving."
Neil Macleod who also lives ion Stornoway is an experienced weaver. He said: "After watching this very important industry which is a barometer to the economic stability of the island, I made a lifestyle choice to become a weaver because it gave me the opportunity to pursue my many other interests particularly in crofting and rural affairs. I became conscious of the need for weavers to come under a training regime where their particular skills were recognised, developed and passed on to the future generation.
"The training structure is thorough, flexible and is overseen by helpful experienced instructors whose mission is to assist the very nervous but extremely competent weaver who has spent a lifetime weaving without a formal qualification. With a resurgent industry buoyant by steady orders, this accreditation drawn up by the prime movers in the textile industry should be the dynamic to drive Harris Tweed to the iconic discerning market it deserves."
The closing date for registration is 10 September 2010. Anyone interested in enrolling for accreditation should get in touch with Sam Goates, Project Manager Harris Tweed, Cardonald College, tel 07748 014970, email: firstname.lastname@example.org