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APPRENTICESHIPS





TK MAXX, BY FUNDING HOLTS ACADEMY QUALIFICATIONS FOR


HUNDREDS OF JEWELLERY RETAIL APPRENTICES, IS ABOUT TO FLOOD THE MARKET WITH YOUNG INDIVIDUALS SPECIFICALLY TRAINED IN SELLING JEWELLERY TO CONSUMERS


It’s not surprising: the low pay and questionable working conditions have meant that Chinese firms can churn out high volumes of goods at very competitive prices. What’s worse for British firms, these goods are often of respectable quality even by the more demanding standards of the Western jewellery market. Of course, such migration of jobs has meant that the UK jewellery industry has spent much of the last two decades training thousands fewer specialists in all sorts of skills, because it seemed there would never be a market for them once trained. But, as they always do, the market


forces have shifted in the last five years. As China’s economic growth has slowed, it has allowed time for its domestic market to mature, and now it is becoming more profitable for Chinese firms to flog their wares to the Chinese people than to export. It cuts out the cost of shipping billions of pounds worth of goods overseas


22 | Jewellery Focus


to Western markets which, especially in jewellery, have spent most of the last century developing extremely high expectations for quality. This shift in the market means that, gradually, some of these jobs are migrating back to the UK. Demand for specific jewellery skills in everything from casting to enamelling is about to soar, and it will almost certainly outstrip supply. There are a couple of happenings


on the horizon which are likely to help smooth things along. TK Maxx, by funding Holts Academy qualifications for hundreds of jewellery retail apprentices, is about to flood the market with young individuals specifically trained in selling jewellery to consumers. You can bet they’re not all going to stick with the TK Maxx jewellery counters once they realise the economic value of that certificate. The clothing retailer has, perhaps unwittingly, made a huge investment in the jewellery selling skills, and


jewellers up and down the country will no doubt benefit from this in the long term. Of course, retail is just one element


of this very complex industry. What about everything else, from silversmithing, to enamelling and gem- cutting? TK Maxx certainly isn’t paying for those skills, and is the government’s apprenticeships framework even suitable for meeting this need?


THE NEED There is a lot of discrepancy of opinion in the jewellery industry. It really depends on whom you speak to whether you hear that the jewellery industry already knows best, or whether the government’s intervention and ‘formalisation’ of apprenticeship training might add value. You wouldn’t expect the attitude of the old school to be present anywhere more than the Goldsmiths’ Centre. Its parent, the Goldsmiths’ Company, can trace its


jewelleryfocus.co.uk | November 2013





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