A group of Scottish knitwear firms has joined forces to launch a new textiles apprenticeship scheme to try to ensure they have enough trained workers for their future needs.

The 12 companies from the Scottish Borders stand to lose the most experienced 10% of their 2,000- plus workforce to retirement over the next five years, leaving them with a crippling skills gap.

However because there were no established programmes to recruit and train new talent, the manufacturers banded together with help from training provider Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media which includes the fashion and textile sector, and a collection of educational, trade and governmental bodies.

The result is a Skillset Modern Apprenticeship programme that has been driven by the industry to respond to the very specific challenges that it faces.

The apprenticeships will, in turn, be run by the Scottish Borders Knitwear Group Training Association, whose formation was led by Robin Deas from the House of Cheviot and Mike Wilson from the Scottish Borders Exporters Association.

Companies involved in the initiative are Hawick Knitwear, Hawick Cashmere, Peter Scott, Johnstons of Elgin, Barrie, William Lockie & Co, House of Cheviot, Scott & Charters, Eribe, Caerlee Mills, Kearse & Boys and Lochcarron.

The Scottish Textiles Industry Association (STIA) hopes this programme will now form the template for other branches of the fashion and textiles industry throughout Scotland, and indeed for any industry facing similar challenges.