The fashion industry is going through enormous change and many argue it's just not prepared for it. For a sector that is so creative, redesigning itself shouldn't be a problem. Right? But those institutions that prepare the next generation of designers, pattern cutters, marketeers and fashion leaders etc simply will not be able to cope with the scale of the changes required and the need for almost instant training and educational input. It has to come from the industry as a whole.
A generation of employees is coming through that wants instant everything as technology delivers it in the palm of their hands with tablets and even smarter phones.
Accessing learning material has never been easier if you can find it. Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet, Co-Founder, EdTechXGlobal says however that "only 2% of education is focussed on digital", so there is a massive opportunity for individual subject experts to step into the learning arena and fill the gap.
Using fashion universities and colleges as the primary means for preparing students for industry simply won't do. Their focus is still too targeted on the formal educational degree that needs to be achieved not preparing people for the workplace and the needs of a global industry on the cusp of enormous change.
According to a survey by PayScale, a compensation data firm, 25% of recent grads felt they were “extremely prepared” for their new jobs while only 8% of managers agreed. 62% of recent grads felt they were “mostly prepared,” while only 42% of managers concurred. When asked whether they were “well prepared,” 87% of recent grads said they were, but only 50% of managers seemed to feel that way.
At We Teach Fashion We now have over 100 fashion subject experts from all backgrounds and disciplines that have enrolled with us and are developing their own online fashion subject courses. Their subjects range from shoe design to fashion illustration, fashion project management, fashion sales and marketing, knitwear, apparel construction, fit technology, portfolio development, visual merchandising, retailing, introduction to draping, pattern cutting and more.
These experts have the knowledge and real-world work experience to share, a passion for their subject and have seen the opportunity to start their own online academies, to dominate their niche and earn extra income from repeated sales of their online courses and digital products, whilst serving the needs of individuals and the industry.
Clearly, the massive opportunity that exists which is growing for online education is not going to be plugged by these 100. Our aim is to have 1000 experts by 2021.
This would bring to the market at least 1000 new fashion related courses to serve the needs of a growing population of online learners from the US to Europe to the Far East to the African continent and Australia. These courses can take as short as 30 minutes or as long as several weeks to complete.
It's important to realize that everyone in the fashion industry has the potential to create courses, help guides, information products, e-books etc and to earn from the sales of these. Education provision should not be the dominion of formal academic institutions or private training firms. Individuals with expertise have much to offer.
All it requires is a willingness to contribute and taking action. The learning curve has never been shallower and the cost of entry can be zero.
There are thousands of online articles that you can find on how to create online courses and dozens of platforms that enable you to create and host your own courses, although there is only one fashion only market-place.
At We Teach Fashion we bring you content tailored with examples that are fashion oriented within a community of fashion subject experts so that you have the added benefit of connecting with like-minded professionals that have similar backgrounds. We believe this makes for a richer and more relevant learning experience for you.
We know from our own research that there's a need for a rich tapestry of online fashion courses. Students themselves recognise how underprepared they are for the workplace. In a recent survey carried out by the Business of Fashion fashion students and alumni reported that
"They feel unequipped with the practical business skills and training they need to thrive once they enter full-time employment or go on to start their own business."
There is also an opportunity to use digital educational products to support the existing workforce across all the various disciplines that make up the fashion sector. The same principles of easy access online apply to people already in the workforce that also need to adapt, develop and evolve. It's not just graduates that need support.
A simple search on Google shows just how poorly served sectors of the industry are. For example, if you are a pattern cutter that is just starting out as a freelancer there is nothing we could find that provides specific support with practical advice from other experienced pattern cutters that have made the transition from employed to freelance. And yet that experience exists somewhere and there is real value in that experience, which new freelancers would pay for to make their transition less painful, complicated and expensive.
Try it for yourself. Take your industry sector expertise and see what comes. Use this search phrase "How to develop your XYZ skills" and see what Google delivers in its search results. Simply exchange XYZ for your discipline e.g. visual merchandising, fashion retail, garment technology, tech packs etc.
Then play around with other search terms related to your field and see what comes up. I think you'll be surprised at how little online training is available.
I'm connecting with hundreds of fellow fashion professionals on LinkedIn every week and without exception, everyone says that they see the need for fashion education to change and that online learning is a key facilitator for this change. They see graduates entering the workforce unprepared for the realities of the workplace because universities have failed to prepare them properly. It's one thing to have a degree, it's another to be a productive contributor to a commercial enterprise that needs employees that can hit the road running.
Many people ask me, "how can I help?" in short there are three ways.
If you experience graduates entering employment unprepared for the commercial world, tell us what shortfalls they have so we can help bridge that gap. You can tell us here with this short survey.
We've heard it many times before that graduates are leaving university unprepared and lacking in some basic skills and awareness needed in the workplace. A survey from PayScale found that even though nine in 10 recent college grads believe they're prepared for the workforce, only half the US's employers agree. As one of the survey's authors explained, "the fundamentals of business… are not taught in our school systems."
If you are a manager or responsible for hiring staff you understand the importance of having employees who can communicate effectively with customers and each other, who know how to manage their time and are efficient, and who can get a task done with minimal supervision. And yet these attributes aren't always developed through university courses.
So you can help us prepare graduates by letting us know where their weaknesses are so we can develop tactical courses to offer them.
Start by completing our five-minute survey here and give us your insights.
You can help spread the word about the work we are doing at We Teach Fashion where we are teaching fashion experts how to develop online courses and digital products for the fashion sector and how to monetize their expertise.
Online learning is growing at around 17% per annum with EdTech sales predicted to be worth $252bn by 2020. It provides new opportunities for people coming into the fashion industry to be better prepared, more knowledgeable and more skilled when traditional university courses are becoming increasingly more expensive.
By developing the skills of fashion industry professionals like you that want to make a difference there has never been a better time in history to drive change, improve standards, and develop a more commercially educated workforce.
If you do nothing else simply let your fellow fashion professionals know there is an opportunity waiting for them and that We Teach Fashion (weteachfashion.com) is the best place to learn more.
If you have already created your own online fashion course or written an e-book on a relevant subject then you can sell your products on The Fashion Student Hub (thefashionstudenthub.com) where we share sales revenue of up to 70% with course creators and authors.
There is no technology to grapple with as we do all the set up for you so your course can be hosted with us and promoted to our fashion only audience.
I remember when I was young, inexperienced both at work, in fashion, and in life. Everything was new, exciting and waiting for me to conquer. Some people helped me along the way in the first few years of my career as I began to find my feet, develop my signature style and build a small network of people willing to offer support to this new face in fashion.
Since then I've done what I can to help others in a similar position regardless of whether it was my duty or role. I've never forgotten how I felt when I knew someone was in my corner with me encouraging, guiding and mentoring me.
Of course, back then there was no Internet and technology was as sophisticated as a fax machine so help was face to face and the reach came from people close at hand. Now, however, we can all do our bit and reach hundreds and thousands of young people coming into, and already in the industry that need training and coaching because technology empowers us.
Do what you can.
Cheryl Gregory is the Founder of The Fashion Student Hub, a marketplace for selling online fashion courses, and We Teach Fashion teaching fashion subject experts how to create and promote their own online courses, generate revenue and serve the growing need for online education in the fashion sector.
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