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Two island women have become the first to achieve modern apprenticeship accreditation as Harris Tweed weavers, a milestone for both the industry and the national modern apprentice programme which has never previously accredited an individual in self-employment.
Jacqueline Craig and Anne Marie Henderson received their certificates from Councillor Alasdair Macleod at an event held as part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week.
The modern apprenticeships were delivered as part of a wider project to support the Harris Tweed industry.
Community trusts Horshader Community Development and Tolsta Community Development Ltd utilised revenue from their renewable energy assets to purchase double-width looms with a view to creating locally-based, flexible employment opportunities.
The new looms were ordered directly from engineering firm Griffiths Textile Machinery Ltd and then leased to individuals living within the trusts’ catchment areas.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Harris Tweed Authority and Highlands and Islands Enterprise supported training for the prospective weavers via a bespoke programme of mentor-led tuition.
Modern apprenticeships are usually structured around the employer/employee relationship while the 1993 Harris Tweed Act of parliament requires weavers to be independent producers who are mainly self-employed.
Therefore close co-operative working between all was required but coupled with Jacqueline and Anne Marie’s participation in the pilot, a successful outcome was achieved.