In our latest blog, we chat to our founder, Beverley Chambers about what drives her, what inspires her and what she is most proud of…
Q: Did you really start your career 55-years ago?
One of my earliest memories was being taken to work with my dad on a Saturday morning, when I was about 4 or 5 years old. My dad worked in the clothing industry, he was a qualified tailor, but engineered clothing factories that manufactured for some of the major UK retailers. To keep me occupied he gave me the job of baste-pulling. Baste-pulling is literally pulling out the temporary big white tacking stitches on the chest panel of men’s suit jackets. I sat up on the big high table, crossed legged, just like tailors of old used to do and got through pile after pile of jackets.
I literally grew up in clothing factories. My dad taught me to sew, and it was because of him that I wanted to work in the clothing industry. So, upon leaving school, I went on to study for an honour’s degree in Fashion Marketing at Northumbria University.
Q: Why are you passionate about fostering young talent?
After leaving university, I was very lucky to join Marks & Spencer as a trainee selector. The training program at M&S lasted 18-months, it started on day one and led to becoming an Assistant. This is very different to what I have observed happening in many Australian retail companies, where any training offered is only ‘on-the-job’ for the first few years until people become experienced assistants, when a limited number have an opportunity to join a ‘trainee’ buyer or planner program.
I see this causing a number of issues for the industry. Firstly, it’s difficult to attract the brightest and best people into the industry, particularly graduates, when they are not being offered a structured development program from the start of their career. Secondly, by limiting training to solely ‘on-the-job’, the training is inconsistent, and a person is only as good as the person who trains them. I also believe it leads to where the Australian industry is now with a shortage of skilled people, particularly in merchandise planning. We are simply not training enough people early enough or well enough. We have been reliant on importing talent from overseas, which is expensive, and it does not give us a future talent pool.
I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to be put through such a thorough and extensive program as I was at M&S. It was one of the reasons I set up Numensa almost a decade ago. We’ve developed over 18 online courses with our sister company in the UK to build fundamental 101 skills in buying and planning. Over the last 10 years and prior to this, when I was a tutor on the RMIT Fashion & Textiles Merchandising program, I have had the opportunity to train, guide and mentor people at all levels of their career. I just love being able to help, and I love seeing people develop and progress in their career. I suppose it’s what drives me.
I’m still in contact with many of my past students and course delegates, who from time to time turn to me for career advice.
Q: Why did you launch ‘I WANT TO BE A FASHION BUYER’?
This really came about from talking to clients, many of whom said they were struggling to find people to take entry level roles, who had the right aptitude and most importantly attitude. Having worked in the university sector, I know that courses are academic and give people critical thinking skills, but that they don’t give people real-world work experience. I also know that people come out of university not wanting to pursue a career in their degree field, but they don’t want to go back and study for another two or three years. There are also people who have worked in stores and want to move into the support office in merchandise management but don’t have the experience. It seemed that what was missing was a short, sharp course teaching the required skills combined with relevant work experience. And so, ‘I want to be a fashion buyer’ was born.
Over a six-month period, our students study online, with a weekly live tutorial, whilst working as an intern with one of our high-profile fashion retail partners, one or two days per week. Students have the opportunity of learning tangible skills for their resume whilst being able to use the opportunity to impress their intern partner. Our intern partners have the unique opportunity to assess the internee over a longer period to see whether they may be a good fit for their business should a suitable opportunity arise. It really is a win/win.
Last year, we ran a pilot program with Boardriders on the Gold Coast, (as they were the only area of the Eastern seaboard still working from the office) and we are about to launch in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, and Melbourne at the beginning of April*.
So, to sum up all three questions, yes, in some form, I’ve been in the industry 55 years, fostering young talent brings me joy and well, I started ‘I want to be a fashion buyer’ because it’s what the industry needs.
*The program has been postponed for one month, (from 1st March 2022 to 4th April 2022) due to the Omicron outbreak.
If you want to know more about our Numensa online courses, the iwanttobeafashionbuyer.com program or about becoming one of our cherished intern partners, follow the links below:
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