Digital skills - essential in sewing up the future

15th Nov 2016

If there were any doubt that digital skills have become a requirement in every business sector, look no further than fashion. 
On the face of it, this industry remains a bastion of “old-fashioned” (excuse the pun) skills and technology, where for centuries designers and tailors worked with little more than fabric and thread, pen and paper. 

Yet, when you think about it, it seems bizarre that fashion would eschew the benefits that digital technology has brought to so many other industries. After all, couturiers aren’t that different from other manufacturers: they design things; they make them; and they sell them. Why would the world of fashion not benefit as much from technologies such as computer-aided design (CAD) and digital marketing as, say, an aerospace manufacturer or a supermarket?

The fact is that digital’s impact on fashion goes far, far further than wearable technology, and those entering the industry on both the design and retail side will need to master a range of digital skills in order to turn their passion for fashion into a successful career.

Mastering the skills

The growing necessity of mastering digital skills is the reason why Experian has been working with the Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) to create a brand new digital hub in the Academy’s home in Fitzrovia. The FRA is a London-based college which delivers unique and contemporary educational experience with a range of vocational and work-oriented courses, and it clearly understands how technology is changing the industry.

Even if clothes designers prefer to stick to traditional creative methods – and no doubt many feel that technology interferes with the intimate, tactile relationship we have with fabrics and clothing – they still need to market and sell their creations. That’s why the FRA will be providing courses in a full range of digital skills that encompasses everything from programmatic advertising to “visual merchandising” – and a whole lot more besides.

If fashion is not immune from the relentless march of technology, it really shows that no industry can hope to remain untouched by new developments in digital. But this leaves us in a quandary, because the UK – along with pretty much every other economy – faces a severe shortfall in digital skills. 

The challenges faced

Earlier this year the influential House of Commons Science and Technology Committee reported that 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills, while also pointing to a severe shortfall in the number of computer science teachers in schools.

One of the biggest strategic challenges for UK PLC is how to equip our young people with the skills they need to succeed in their chosen careers. As we have seen with the FRA, industry bodies have a really important to play in helping people to develop their digital abilities, as do technology companies who, naturally, are at the cutting edge of digital developments.

It’s not difficult to see how, in a few years, digital skills will be a pre-requisite for pretty much any job, from hi-tech manufacturing to the shop floor. How we equip the next generation of workers with these skills is the question that every industry sector needs to answer. Yet if an industry like fashion, which remains based on millennia-old technologies such as scissors and sewing, can embrace the very latest digital technologies, there is no reason why we all can’t follow suit.

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