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Working in textile - 4 min read - 15 September 2022

Attracting young people within the textiles industry

It’s no secret that the textiles industry, particularly the protective clothing industry, traditionally has an older demographic of workers. Moving forward, it’s time to think of strategies to attract a younger generation to the industry. What are the values of young workers today, and how can the textiles industry respond to those to attract retain young talent? To find out more, we recently spoke with Elena Lai and Nikolas Schulze-Makuch from the European Textile Service Association (ETSA), a membership organisation that represents both textile service and rented textile companies, as well as National Textile Associations.

Recruitment begins with education

ETSA recently conducted a survey of young people to gauge their perception of the textile services industry. When asked if they were aware how textile services differed from the greater textiles industry, a staggering 67% of respondents stated they did not. In addition, when asked if they would be interested in pursuing a career in textile care or industrial laundry, only 9% stated yes, with a further 30% stating that they were unsure.

Copy of Results Survey (1)

If we wish to draw in young talent, there must be a shift in how our industry is perceived. First of all, we need to ensure they are well-educated on what the textile industries services entails. And secondly, we need to educate ourselves on what it is that these younger workers desire from their workplace, in order to make it an attractive place for them to be.

“We can’t sleep on the topic — it’s time for younger people’s voices to be heard.”
— Elena Lai


Curious about the full results of the survey?

See results

The key attracters for young talent in the workforce

The ETSA survey went on to ask respondents what would convince them to pursue a career in the textile services. These were the key factors:

  • Salary and benefits

It goes without saying that remuneration will always be a key factor when it comes to employee satisfaction. But for the younger generation, value is also placed on additional benefits beyond money. Consider what benefits you can offer your employees to make them feel more appreciated, such as contributions to childcare, gym memberships, travel expenses or offering free e-bikes.

  • Flexibility/work-life balance

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has led to a greater desire amongst young people to have more flexibility from their workplace, and an improved work-life balance. Consider how your workplace can adapt to offer flexibility in working hours that are suited both to your employees’ responsibilities and their desire for a healthier balance between their work and personal lives. This may include hybrid working models (a mixture of working from home and in the office), and the option for employees to start earlier or later.

  •  Potential for career growth

For some younger workers, a driving factor in their employment choices is the ability to see a pathway for career progression. This is particularly important to consider given the fact that many roles in the textiles industry are low-paid, so the potential to grow and upskill is attractive. Consider what you can offer to make your workplace one that promotes growth: from skills training to the opportunity for younger employees to shadow more experienced colleagues. Furthermore, look for opportunities for younger employees to take on projects which will challenge and enrich them — remembering that they are your ambassadors for the future.

  • Sustainability

Given the environmental and climate challenges we face, the emphasis that a company places on sustainable practices has fast become an important consideration to young talent. In the ETSA survey, over half of respondents stated that they placed a high value on the issue of environmental sustainability on both a personal and professional level. However, when asked if they perceived the textile services industry as being sustainable, the majority responded that they did not. We must therefore work to tackle this misperception of our industry as not being environmentally conscious.

Communication is key: being transparent about the strategies we have in place, and are working towards, in order to create a greener workplace that future employees will be proud to join. ETSA, as an EU Commission Climate Pact Ambassador, is doing this very thing. By communicating with both policymakers and the general public, it is ETSA's objective to act as a bridge between EU institutions and the textile services industry, not only to encourage our industry to become even more circular but to showcase all we have already accomplished.

“To present yourself, you need to speak a language young people understand.”
— Nikolas Schulze-Makuch

Communications around sustainability: the key to unlocking potential

Sustainability can be leveraged not just as a marketing tool for statutory and competitive benefits, but also as an effective commitment tool. This input from young professionals helped the congress members to understand that we need to improve communication about our sustainability goals and actions, promote them during the full recruitment process and beyond, and concretely show candidates how they can contribute.

Furthermore, we need to work on consistent communication towards our employees to stay connected to this sustainability transformation. Transparency and a clear vision are important values young talent look for in an employer; by understanding and championing this, we will unlock huge potential in the labour market.

Working towards a diverse and inclusive workforce

While working to attract young talent, we must of course not forget the wealth of skill and experience that currently exists in our workplaces. Talent blends with experience, and by bringing together a new generation of workers together with seasoned professionals, we can create a workplace that all our employees are proud to be part of.


Industry trends new [EN]

Learn all about the latest trends

If you’re interested in learning more about the global trends influencing the protective clothing industry and its workforce, why not have a read of our recently published Global Trend Report.


TOPICS: Working in textile