A new academy has opened in Leicester to train people up to work in the garment industry.

Leicester City Council has invested £300,000 to help develop the new Fashion Technology Academy (Leicester), teaming up with training provider Fashion-Enter.

The academy will offer apprenticeships and accredited training for people who work in, or want to work in, the textiles industry including garment decoration.

Current courses, such as stitching and production skills, are free to people who are unemployed. Apprenticeships at various levels are available to employers.

The academy is based in Stonebridge Street, at the heart of Leicester’s garment industry, sharing a state-of-the-art building with clothing company Ethically Sourced Products, which has made the second floor of its premises available for the project.

Of the £300,000 funding, £100,000 has come from the local business rates pool, administered by the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).

Leicester’s deputy city mayor, councillor Adam Clarke, said: “The opening of this academy is the result of years of hard work, and ideas that were first formulated at a ground-breaking textiles coalition event hosted by Leicester’s city mayor in 2017.

“This project has been developed to help tackle the problems that we know exist in the garment industry locally and are determined to address – despite having no enforcement powers ourselves.

“Leicester has the second largest concentration of textiles and fashion businesses in the UK, so this is a hugely important industry to our local economy, and it is one we are determined to support.

“Creating a highly-skilled and specialist workforce is an important and crucial step in creating workplaces where staff are valued, leading to higher standards of workplace compliance.”

The first Fashion Technology Academy opened in Haringey in north London in 2015, followed by a second in Islington in September 2021. A fourth is due to open in Newtown in Powys in Mid Wales in January 2022.

The new academy in Leicester will work closely with textiles and fashion manufacturing businesses in the Leicester area as well as with retailers such as Asos.

Simon Platts, responsible sourcing director at Asos, said: “We’ve worked with Fashion-Enter in London since 2010 and financed its Stitching Academy in 2015, helping to grow and retain vital textile manufacturing skills.

“Now the launch of Fashion Technology Academy (Leicester) will undoubtedly bring similar benefits to Leicester, helping to turn the city into the fashion centre of excellence that we know it has the potential to be.”

Other partners supporting the project include suppliers Triumph Needle and Alvanon plus fashion etailer I Saw It First, which has invested £150,000 in training to be delivered by the new academy.

Greg Pateras, CEO of I Saw It First, said: “I Saw It First is committed to the British textiles industry, and our latest investment in the academy reinforces our desire to strengthen the sector and improve standards.”

In a further boost to the industry in Leicester, a successful bid to the government’s Community Renewal Fund means the city council will receive £500,000 to work together with partners Fashion-Enter and De Montfort University to offer co-ordinated support to textiles manufacturers and local textiles workers.

The city council’s adult skills and learning team is also working closely with the academy to offer English courses at the venue for speakers of other languages.