150 Harris Tweed weavers and mill employees have completed an ambitious EU funded programme of skills and training in this, the centenary year of the iconic Harris Tweed Orb.
The Harris Tweed Skills & Training Project, funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), culminates in March 2011 and has already surpassed its targets, boosting the potential for the Harris Tweed product in the global market place.
The Harris Tweed industry is an integral part of the economy and society of the Outer Hebrides with mills and traditional home weaving provide a critical underpinning of local prosperity and community life. The Training and Skills Project was originally identified in 2009 as a key element of the Harris Tweed Industry Strategy, with the aim of realising the potential of Harris Tweed as a world-renowned brand, leading to sustainable growth in the industry and contributing to the economic well-being of the Outer Hebrides.
Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Chair of the Harris Tweed Forum said: “Growth is approaching 40% on 2009 and the project can only boost this further. Training packages for new and existing weavers have been complemented by a wide range of support in the mills, developing skills in production, management and design.”
The achievements of the self-employed weavers and the employees of the Harris Tweed Hebrides and Harris Tweed Textiles mills, will be celebrated at an event on 24 February In Stornoway, where leading industrialist James Sugden, recently awarded an OBE for services to the textile industry, will speak.
HIE’s Margaret Macleod underlined the key roles played by the Harris Tweed Industry Forum and Weavers Association in working with HIE, CnES, Skills Development Scotland, and project manager, Upper Quartile, on a cohesive approach to developing the sector. She said: “The success of the individual achievements and overall outputs of the project help to promote the industry as an attractive option for potential new entrants, as well as improve the range of career choices in the Outer Hebrides. ”