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Skillfast-UK employer engagement, work-related learning and the student experience 2008


This project was an initiative funded jointly by ADM-HEA and Skillfast-UK, the Sector Skills Council for apparel, footwear, textiles and related businesses. Both of the resulting project reports may be downloaded from this page. Dissemination of the guidance for teaching staff developed from the project findings can be accessed via the Features section of issue 5 of Networks magazine, published in September, 2008.


The project holders, based a two different UK institutions describe their approaches to the project:

Bucks New University (formerly known as Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College)

There is a widely acknowledged decline in student work placements within large-scale apparel, footwear and textiles companies in the UK. This shortfall in work-based learning opportunities for students in higher education is currently being met by the fashion and textiles designer-maker community. The team at Bucks New University will explore current work-based learning practices of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) textiles, fashion designer makers, consider the relationships between these SMEs and students, while informing the creative textiles and fashion education institutions of good work placement practices.

Aims and objectives

The project aimed to evaluate the impact of student work-based learning and work placement practices on textiles, fashion and accessories designer-makers within the UK. The project design ascertained current work-based learning issues within this designer-maker community and determined employer contribution to work-based learning.

The key objectives of the project were to generate:

•    A contribution to the literature review of work based learning opportunities within the SME textile, fashion and related accessories designer maker community
•    Liaise with UK based SMEs, with an emphasis on establishing new strategies connecting designer-maker SMEs to HEIs
•    An archive of interviews with textiles, fashion, textile and accessories designer makers based within the UK
•    A resource accessible via the ADM-HEA to assist students and courses establish effective relationships within the SME textiles designer maker community
•    A final project report


This project was organised into four phases, with a range of research activities designed to ensure a thorough review of the impact of work placements on the small scale textiles, fashion and accessories designer maker. An initial assessment of current work placement opportunities within SME designer-maker conducted through an on-line questionnaire, which formed the basis for further liaison and interviews with established UK based SMEs within the textile, fashion and related accessories designer maker community. This process enabled the project holder to gain an understanding of work based learning (work placement) issues faced by small scale textiles, fashion and accessories designer makers and their perceptions of current procedures used by higher education institutions. A learning on placement designer maker, student and course evaluation/ questionnaire will be created to inform and shape future work based learning practices.

Download the full report here.

Northbrook College of Further and Higher Education

How do staff and students perceive current opportunities for work-related learning? What can we learn from students’ experience of periods of learning in the workplace? Can these experiences inform future models of successful work-related learning collaborations, and contribute to vocational curriculum developments in these and other design disciplines?

Aims and Objectives

This project aimed to investigate ways in which higher education initiates and maintains relationships within the fashion, textiles, apparel, footwear and related industries, and how employers contribute to the development and delivery of work-related learning.  In addition, the project will sought to identify relevant, valuable and equitable work-related learning experiences through the examination of the staff and student experience, and to carry out an in-depth enquiry into the perceptions and experiences of students prior to, during, and after a period of work-related learning.

The key objectives were to generate data relating to communications and collaborations between HE providers and employers, and obtain evaluative feedback from HE staff and students that could inform transferable models of successful work-related learning.  Additionally, key quotes and discussions were obtained from students that reflect on experiences and perceptions of work-related learning, along with extensive audio/ visual documentation.


The project mainly concentrated in the first phase on developing a focused set of questions targeted at relevant staff within higher education institutions, and to follow up student experiences of work-related learning. Further liaison and face to face interviews took place to including questions to staff on student achievement, progression, and approaches to work-related learning that have been most or least successful.

Download full report here.