North East clothing and textile firms have benefited from £140,000 in training funding grants in the last year thanks to a Strategic Training project.

The STAT project provided £2 million of funding nationally for a pilot programme that gives grants directly to clothing and textile companies. They then decide which training they to invest in. All they need to do is develop a business plan and a training plan to ensure the training has a bottom line benefit.

Speaking at a major conference for the region's textile industry at Sunderland's Stadium of Light, Linda Florance, chief executive of CAPITB Trust, the clothing industry training organisation, said: "STAT funding is available to all sizes of businesses in the clothing and textiles industry, not just SMEs. Up to £28,000 is available per company.

"Although the present round of funding runs out in June this year, we're inviting firms to express interest in the project. We want the government to support another round of STAT funding."

Nearly 100 delegates representing around 60 organisations attended the 'Textile and Clothing Funding Unzipped' event. The conference was designed to introduce textile companies to organisations offering help and funding in areas as diverse as export, training and e-commerce.

Ms Florance said: "From April, we will have a new Sector Skills Council for the apparel, footwear and textiles industry. It's one of only 5 trailblazer SSCs that will replace the present national training organisations. This is a tremendous opportunity to give our industry a new, dynamic image in skills and training. The SSC will be a strong industry voice that will help us to influence government policy towards training in our industry."

The Unzipped roadshow's visit to Sunderland was hosted by the North East Textile Network and the Government Office for the North East.

Fred Kirkland, manager of the Textile Network said: "This is not just about helping North East clothing and textiles businesses. It's also about helping government departments understand the needs of the industry. There is a considerable amount of help available to companies. They need help to access the support."