Made in Britain

Inspiring Stories: discover our unique apprenticeships

Made in Britain

Inspiring Stories: discover our unique apprenticeships

November 03, 2023

Taking strides, sustaining skills

Learning, personal growth, and career development are at the heart of David Nieper. Helping people to excel is how we’ve remained an industry leader in luxury garment-making for over 60 years. We love to work with people who share our passion for beautiful clothes and are very fortunate to have a multi-talented team eager to pass on their expertise to the next generation. 

Our apprentices are a key part of the David Nieper family. By training and inspiring textile enthusiasts, we’re helping to safeguard the future of British sewing and make sure the UK fashion industry continues to thrive. 

 We caught up with Pamela Holland, Director of HR & Corporate Planning, and Gemma Trueman, Apprenticeship Programme Co-Ordinator, to learn more.

Sewing Apprenticeships at David Nieper

Gemma starts by telling us about the sewing apprenticeships on offer at David Nieper. 

“We currently run two nationally recognised apprenticeships here at the company. 

“The Level 2 Sewing Machinist course provides all the skills needed to become a qualified sewing machinist. From stitch length and trimmings to machine repair and safety, our trainees develop a full scope of strengths. Our busy, bustling sewing room is their ‘classroom,’ and their tutors are our highly skilled David Nieper seamstresses.” 

The Level 3 Garment Maker apprenticeship is more extensive. Apprentices experience garment development end to end and learn about the full product lifestyle. 

“This is a really exciting course,” Gemma says, “and provides extensive learning in how to become a luxury garment maker, covering detailed specifications, quality checking and everything in between!”

Cosy Cotton-blend Wrap

Work with beautiful materials

A unique place to learn

So, what makes David Nieper such a special place to study your apprenticeship? 

“Our sewing apprentices master all the skills needed to excel in their course, but in a real-world setting. Transforming textbooks and step-by-steps into something tangible doesn’t just add relevance – our apprentices feel valued as part of a living and breathing community.”

Best-in-class teaching also sets our apprenticeships apart. Every David Nieper tutor is exceptionally skilled, bringing decades of experience to our programme and sharing their second-to-none knowledge with our trainees. You simply can’t get this amount of expertise from a classroom!

What’s more, trainees learn about the heritage of their craft and the tradition they’re a part of. We’re proud that the East Midlands has been the beating heart of UK fashion for centuries, and our apprentices are playing a crucial part in the industry’s future growth and protection.

So much more than a classroom

Unlike college or school-based apprenticeships, the David Nieper programme offers first-hand experience and insight.

“We’re a full-scale team at David Nieper. We don’t just make your clothes and print the fabric, we design catalogues, source yarns, run events, manage an on-site customer shop and cafe... Apprentices get the chance to explore every part of a unique international fashion brand. 

“Machine variety is another great benefit of our course,” Gemma adds. Unlike college-based courses with classrooms of domestic machines, our apprentices train on a range of industrial machines and produce premium brand clothing in a range of top-quality fabrics.”

In-house fabric printing

Location photoshoot

A course that’s a perfect fit

Pamela told us that “the whole team have worked unbelievably hard to ensure the training is high quality and a ‘perfect fit’.” 

Gaining Approved Employer Training Provider Status in 2019 means we can provide our own training, in-house, from people with decades of knowledge and first-hand experience in luxury garment making. The approved status standards are extremely rigorous, so it’s difficult to find a fashion design and manufacturing company able to provide in-house training. 

It’s very rare for a family business of our size to be awarded the status.” 

David Nieper also helped set the standards now used throughout the industry as the basis for sewing skills training. As an employer lead, we supported the development of the apprenticeship standards to ensure that learning is robust, thorough and entirely fit for purpose.

Set for success

“The next steps for trainees? They’re near endless,” Gemma says. 

Most Level 2 apprentices become permanent members of the sewing team here at David Nieper. They may also choose to progress onto the Level 3 course. Whichever route they take, they’ll always be expanding their skills!” 

There are many career options on offer. Skilled sewing machinists are valued for their speed and versatility, and can quickly progress into roles like Senior Luxury Garment Maker, Team Co-Ordinator, Sewing Supervisor or Quality Controller. The choice is really exciting! 

Truly understanding garment make-up is the best way to build a successful career as a fashion designer. This makes both apprenticeships a great first step to starting your fashion career!

Alternatively, a new trainee might choose to specialise in garment development (designing new clothes). Career options include New Product Specialist, Sewing Production Planning or Garment Technologist.

“This is another benefit of doing your apprenticeship with us: you get the chance to see a range of roles first-hand and discover what suits you most.”

Level 2 Sewing Machinist Success

Level 2 Sewing Machinist Success

A learning organisation

Pamela also highlights how valuable the apprenticeships are for the whole company. 

“We’ve learnt so much about how to support personal development, deliver fully blended learning, raise standards, assure quality and drive progress, and we’ve been able to action this to the benefit of all our machinists – around 80 in total. We aim to help everyone keep developing their skills and expertise, whether they’re a new starter or long-serving member of the team. And this means our garments just keep getting better and better! 

We aim to become a ‘complete learning organisation’, where every employee across every department feels like they are growing in confidence, ability and skill every day.”

Institute of Apprenticeships

We’re very proud of our sewing apprenticeships and each apprentice learning with us – it’s just one of the reasons why we’re working to improve apprenticeships nationwide. 

Since 2017, we’ve been partnering with the Institute of Apprenticeships to establish new standards for a range of textile-based qualifications. The revised courses are engaging and relevant, full of real work and real-life experience.

Just last month, the Institute of Apprenticeships named David Nieper as fifth in their list of top 10 providers for the Level 2 course. We’re the only employer provider on the list, placing us as the leading UK employer for sewing apprenticeships. And we couldn’t be more proud!

Where are we heading?

“We’re not about to sit still,” Gemma says, “we’ve got lots of exciting things in the pipeline. 

“As well as developing both apprenticeships to offer them to more young people, we’re nurturing the next generation of textile enthusiasts. 

“We’ve been working with local secondary schools and careers departments to re-invigorate interest in sewing – it’s an important life skill, after all. 

“We also hold a Fashion for Free event, where 100s of primary school children come to our factory and make new garments from old unwanted clothes and waste material, all completely free. Their creativity is incredible, and we see everything from umbrellas and curtains transformed into skirts, tops, dresses and more!”

Fashion for Free

Supporting local schools

Meet our current apprentices

I love that I get to learn more about the company and other departments in addition to the training I have received in the academy. Rhiannon (Level 2 Sewing Machinist)

So far it has been really good for helping me find out more about the history of the company; I’ve found it all really interesting! Jennie (Level 3 Garment Maker) 

Being a mum and full-time employee, I’m thankful for the opportunity to study a course based on the industry I work in. It will give me the confidence and knowledge to further my understanding in my field and in my future career prospects. Connie (Level 3 Garment Maker)

Browse our full range to see the styles and designs we create at David Nieper – there’s so much to discover! Interested in joining us? Excited by all things fashion and textiles? Contact Gemma to find out more about our sewing apprenticeships.

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