Two islanders in Harris Tweed first

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Two island women have become the first to achieve Modern Apprenticeship accreditation as Harris Tweed weavers, a milestone for both the industry and the national Modern Apprentice programme which has never previously accredited an individual in self-employment.

Jacqueline Craig and Anne Marie Henderson received their certificates from Cllr Alasdair Macleod at an event held as part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week. Presenting the certificates Cllr. Macleod commented: “I am very pleased to present these certificates today, this project has tested new ground for Modern Apprentice delivery and we are proud to be involved. There has been a considerable joint effort here from those who conceived and funded the project to the training officers involved in the co-ordination and delivery, the assessors, the HTA, the community Trusts and not least the mentor tutors and trainees. Well done to all, we wish the trainees every success with their weaving careers going forward.”

The Modern Apprenticeships were delivered as part of a wider project to support the Harris Tweed industry. Community trusts Horshader Community Development and Tolsta Community Development Ltd. utilised revenue from their renewable energy assets to purchase double-width looms with a view to creating locally based, flexible employment opportunities.

The new looms were ordered directly from engineering firm Griffiths Textile Machinery Ltd and then leased to individuals living within the trusts catchment areas. Tolsta Community Development Limited commented: “TCDL/Tolsta Power are delighted to have had the opportunity to be part of this project. Purchasing the four looms made it possible to create employment for four residents locally and we are very proud that one of our weavers has achieved this Modern Apprenticeship. With the help from Harris Tweed Authority, CNES and HIE, we have enabled all our weavers to train to SVQ Level 2 and we wish them well in their new employment.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Harris Tweed Authority and Highlands and Islands Enterprise supported training for the prospective weavers via a bespoke programme of mentor-led tuition.

With the involvement of Skills Development Scotland the innovative proposal of aiming to deliver this training as a Modern Apprenticeship was conceived.