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West Wales-Based Business Invests in Older Workers

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This article was submitted by The Welsh Government 

A west Wales-based fashion retailer has shown its commitment to investing in its older employees’ skills by backing a new Welsh Government campaign, designed to challenge stereotypes and show ‘people do not have a best before date’.

Hiut Denim brought jeans making back to Cardigan after the previous factory, employing 10 per cent of the local population, closed down. Claudio Belotti is a 64-year-old Grand Master at Hiut and has been making jeans for over 40 years.

Claudio and the company are now supporting the Welsh Government’s Age of Investment initiative, launched during Skills for Work Week, which highlights to employers across Wales the importance of retaining their older workers.

It warns employers that within the next five years, one in three people of working age will be over fifty. Therefore, investing in skills throughout an employee’s working life has never been more important.

“I can’t count the pairs of jeans I’ve helped make. It could be hundreds of thousands. I’ve been making them since I left school at 15,” said Claudio.

“I went into the cutting department of the local factory and learned my trade; I was there for 38 years. I grew up with the factory and as it grew bigger and bigger, producing 35,000 pairs a week at its peak, I was given more responsibility.”

Unfortunately, Claudio was made redundant from this role in his mid-50s but after being offered a customer service role in retail in Haverfordwest he was introduced to David Hieatt, the man behind the Hiut Denim Company.

Claudio continued:

“I loved the vision that David had for Hiut. The company is something special; the fabrics, the quality, the people, the skill factor. It’s created a new future for Cardigan.

“Part of my job is to train younger people coming on board, to help create a whole new generation of jeans makers. I’m training a young guy called Robert to be a cutter and one day he’ll take over from me. There is a lot to learn and I am still learning; about different fabrics, different cuts, and different ways of putting the garment together. But that’s part of the pleasure of this work.”

David Hieatt, Co-founder of Huit Denim, said:

“Our Grand Masters, people like Claudio, have exceptional skills and a lifetime of experience they bring to work with them every day. We’ve created a space here where they can do the best work they’ve ever done and where they can pass on those skills to apprentices who will be the lifeblood and future of the company.

“Here each Grand Master uses 75 different processes to make each pair of jeans. They are extraordinary. They’re here before 8 and work till 5 and their ambition is to help me grow the company to give even more people work. They want to enjoy life – to live and grow old here and share their skills with others.”

 As part of its Age of Investment initiative, the Welsh Government has teamed up with BITC Cymru, Learning and Work Institute and the Older People’s Commissioner to launch the ‘People Don’t Have a Best Before Date’ campaign, designed to challenge the stereotypes of older workers and demonstrate their value in the workplace.

Claudio is one of eleven employees from a cross-section of exemplar Welsh businesses that have shown a commitment to investing in an all-age workforce to feature in the campaign. It will combine radio and digital advertising and downloadable advice guides and toolkits, to illustrate to employers the tangible business benefits of creating a skilled, effective, multi-generational workforce.

 Commenting on the launch of this campaign and highlighting why it has never been more important for companies to recognise how valuable their older worker are.

Skills and Science Minister, Julie James, said:

“Older workers are vital for the future prosperity of our economy and our businesses. Retaining people, developing their skills throughout their working life and recruiting older workers has never been more critical to business survival as well as growth.

“Our workforce in Wales is getting older and young people joining the labour market will not fill all of the vacancies. This campaign is designed to encourage all employers – but particularly SMEs where the loss of skills and cost of recruitment can be more consequential – that they need older workers to survive and grow.

“We hope it will reinforce the issue to Welsh businesses of all sizes and give them practical advice on how they can manage and retain the skills and experience of their older workers, and appeal to the market of older recruits.”

For employers looking for more information on how they can invest in the skills of their older workers, the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Business – https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/ has a range of advice and guidance.