India's first knitwear specialty training centre opened today (26 September) as part of wider plans to help the sector move into new products and markets and improve skill levels.

The centre is a joint initiative between the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) and the Apparel Training & Design Centre (ATDC), and is located within the Faridabad industrial hub in northern India.

Here there are more than 50 apparel export units and 30 fabric processing units employing over 60,000 people, and generating exports worth INR30bn (US$483.8m).

Called the 'SMART Bhawan', the facility also boasts a textile testing lab, and has been set up as part of the government's Integrated Skill Development Scheme (ISDS).

Under its authorisation, the ATDC has been tasked with training 250,000 people by 2017 through 250 centres across India in skills such as digital merchandising, design and pattern engineering.

"Knitwear production comprises about 45% of the total exported volume of apparel [from India]," said Zohra Chatterji, secretary at the Ministry of Textiles.

"With around 5,000 knitwear factories already set-up in India and many more foraying into knitwear production, numerous skilled hands will be required."

It was also revealed that another 60 units have enrolled in the DISHA social compliance programme in the last two months.

The pan-India programme - Driving Industry Towards Sustainable Human Capital Advancement (DISHA) - aims to address some of the concerns and challenges facing the industry. Of the 320 companies that have signed up, 167 have completed the first phase of training.