The UK fashion sector is to lose its dedicated lobbying voice on skills issues after the government on Tuesday (15 December) decided not to renew Skillfast-UK's licence when comes to an end next March.

But the industry's representation on skills won't disappear altogether, since a deal is about to be signed that will see the UK's 79,000 fashion and textiles businesses join Skillset - currently the Sector Skills Council for creative media industries - from April. 

The move could even give employers a stronger lobbying voice on skills issues for the future, Skillfast's Louise Wood told just-style.

"We took the decision we had a much more secure future for our sector with Skillset than we would by continuing the fight on our own. We think it's a good deal and the best possible solution."

"Our board's been working really, really hard to make sure that the bits employers really care about continuing are going to be kept within Skillset," Wood continues.

"So as far as the sector's concerned, the qualifications work will continue within Skillset and it'll be our people who will go to work at Skillset to do that job, so no change there."

While synergies between the creative media industries and the fashion and textiles sector might not be immediately obvious, there are parallels on the skills front - including the need for technical and business skills, and a lack of suitable training to help workers develop after they join the industry.

"Both sectors already have world-class reputations, and representing fashion and textiles will make our voices louder and even more effective," said Skillset chief executive, Dinah Caine.

The choice of Skillset to represent the fashion and textiles sector on skills was made by Skillfast-UK's board, which comprises prominent fashion and textiles industrialists, trade associations and union representation. 

Wood explains that a number of potential alliances were investigated, but Skillset was selected because it offering the strongest strategic positioning for the UK's fashion and textiles industry.

Within Skillset, fashion and textiles interests will be represented by a group of fashion and textiles employers, a seat on the board of directors, and a dedicated team specialising in fashion and textiles work.

Once final arrangements are agreed, Skillset will have a portfolio of industries that contribute GBP45bn to the UK economy each year and represent the skills needs of around 1 million workers.

The decision to end Skillfast-UK's license on 31 March next year was not entirely unexpected after an assessment was carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills earlier this year.

The government is also planning significant reductions in the number of Sector Skills Councils by 2012 - possibly cutting the 25 Sector Skills Councils down to single figures - as outlined in a recent white paper. 

"In light of this information we took the decision that rather than holding out to be a separate sector skills council, we felt it was worth cutting a deal with somebody else to get the best possible future for the employers in this sector going forward," Wood explains.