Australia / Analyst Insights
Career progression increasingly difficult for fashion students
by Lauren Magner
Feb 08 2016

As school leavers prepare for the next step in their education, IBISWorld examines the challenges and opportunities for textile, clothing and footwear students. As enrolments climb, access to apprenticeships is emerging as a bottleneck for progression in the local-fashion industry. The domestic clothing and footwear manufacturing industries continue to decline, as the majority of production shifts offshore to cheaper locations.

Despite an increasingly competitive retail environment, the design industry is attracting a high level of interest from school leavers. The industry has become more accessible, engaging with a wider audience through social media platforms like Instagram and fashion blogs. VET programs targeting the fashion sector have benefited, as enrolments have increased over the past five years.

The number of VET students enrolled in TCF-related training programs in Victoria greatly exceeds that of other states. In 2014, Victoria accounted for 47.0% of TCF enrolments, compared with 16.0% in New South Wales, despite a lower population base. This can be attributed to the high number of registered training organisations (RTOs) located in Victoria. Growth in the number of RTOs in Victoria over the past five years has been driven by the deregulation of the state’s VET sector. The move to a demand-driven system from 2009, in which federal funding is available to both public and private VET providers according to student demand, contributed to a surge in non-TAFE organisations.

Despite Victoria’s dominance when it comes to student enrolments, the next step in student careers is less certain. On average, approximately 52% of completed apprenticeships in the TCF sector are undertaken in New South Wales, compared with only 8% in Victoria. Sydney is home to the majority of Australian designers and labels, in addition to the mainstream fashion press. Clothing and accessories buyers will often visit Sydney when sourcing new products due to the large number of brands found there. The gap between training and opportunities for career progression is likely to widen as student numbers increase in Victoria.

The majority of clothing manufacturers operate in New South Wales and Victoria, due to the heavy concentration of designers, wholesalers, retailers and department stores. Victoria accounts for almost 32% of clothing manufacturers in Australia, while New South Wales represents approximately 39%.

However, clothing import competition has been fierce, and Australian manufacturers that compete on price have either exited the industry or moved production offshore. The most competitive international manufacturers typically have much larger production runs than their Australian counterparts, in order to keep prices low. However, Australia’s advantage does not lie in cost-competitive products or large volumes, as the high-quality clothing of domestic manufacturers has supported consumer demand.

As the textile, clothing and footwear manufacturing sector continues to contract, fashion graduates will find it increasingly difficult to secure employment. With more graduates than apprenticeships, some design students may apply for competitive international internships to gain exposure to multiple facets of the industry. When graduates attain sufficient skills, confidence and backing to launch out on their own, their prospects will improve.

 

Relevant industries:

Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Australia

Men’s and Boys’ Wear Manufacturing in Australia

Women’s and Girls’ Wear Manufacturing in Australia