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Themis at Burnley College’s Textile Academy provides vital protective supplies for NHS and care homes

A team of dedicated staff from Themis at Burnley College’s Textile Academy have switched from training individuals in industrial sewing skills vital to the furniture industry to producing essential face masks and scrub bags to keep NHS and care home staff safe from the threat of Covid-19.

Led by Textile Academy trainer Lynn Whitham, the team are sewing face masks for those in need and working alongside groups across the region to produce scrub bags for the NHS. Maintaining social distancing and complying with all Public Health advice, the team are using the Textile Academy’s industry-standard facilities on Burnley College Campus to produce the much-needed protective supplies.

Plus, to assist others who want to make masks – for their own use or to give away to those in need – they have created an online learning guide for sewing your own face mask and laundry bag from home. Instructions can be found on burnley.ac.uk/online-learning

Curriculum Manager of Foundation and Community Studies at Burnley College Karen Lea said:

“A number of groups online have been putting out pleas for scrub bags and one request I saw said they needed 6,000 so we immediately sprang into action to set up our own ‘Scrub Hub’ to produce both masks and scrub bags. The Textile Academy is fitted out with the latest industry-standard sewing machines and space for cutting large quantities of material and we are proud to be able to put our amazing facilities and equipment to good use to help our healthcare heroes.

“Our biggest challenge is getting hold of material. We need to use 100% cotton and supplies of elastic are hard to source, so, we’re gratefully accepting any donations of spare fabric or elastic and can arrange to collect – adhering to social distancing guidance – if needed.

“Of course, if any groups within the NHS or healthcare sector need additional scrub bags or face masks, please get in touch with us and we will do our best to help you!”

The Textile Academy at Themis at Burnley College takes individuals from unemployment to train, or retrain, as sewing machinists on the latest industry-standard equipment they will use in the workplace. The Academy works in partnership with leading employers– including international office furniture manufacturer Senator – to develop industry-ready sewing machinists, with the specialist skills to fit seamlessly into the workplace. In addition to practical skills, all Textile Academy trainees develop key employability skills and knowledge, including health and safety, reliability, good time-keeping and communication.

The Textile Academy Scrub Hub forms just part of the Burnley College effort to help the community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Engineering staff have produced face masks and visors using the College’s 3D printers; Personal Protective Equipment was donated from the College’s laboratories to healthcare staff on the frontline and the College’s catering team have helped to provide food parcels and meals to those in need.

College staff have also been sharing their expertise with the wider community, assisting employers and key organisations switch to remote working and boosting their digital skills. Themis Apprentices have been playing integral roles, too, in their workplaces, including manufacturing equipment for the Nightingale Hospitals and manning hospital pharmacies. A group of Advanced Level Health and Social Care students have volunteered as NHS Healthcare Assistants, supporting frontline medics in clinical settings.

Burnley College Principal Karen Buchanan said:

“During these unprecedented times it has never been more important that we all work together; that we share our expertise, facilities and experience for the greater good. I have never been more proud of our staff, students and Themis Apprentices for the different roles they have played throughout this time: not only have they thrown their heart and soul into online teaching, training and learning but they have been actively helping those most in need.

“As the Burnley College family we support each other and it has been great to see that proactive, caring ethos carried over into our work with the community, with employers and the NHS during Covid-19. We are in this together and it will be the moments of kindness that we remember long after the virus has vanished.”

Are you currently between careers and seeking to retrain as a sewing machinist in industry? The Textile Academy has a proven track record in developing the skills employers are seeking and helping trainees secure permanent positions within this thriving sector. Contact Chantelle Allen at the Textile Academy on c.allen@burnley.ac.uk for more information on a career within the sewing industry. For inquiries regarding scrub bags and face masks, please contact Karen Lea on k.lea@burnley.ac.uk.