Training and Apprenticeships

Training and Apprenticeships

Finding employees with sewing superpowers

Finding the right people with the right skills is one of the biggest challenges for any business.  We think sewing is a superpower and its one of the core skills we have as a foundation for everything we do.  But its not just about sitting at a machine and guiding the needles to stitch layers of fabric together and repeating the task over and over.  Its so much more than that.

Sewing is our superpower

When we revamped the business back in the day, the term ‘manufacturing’ in any form wasn’t included on most drop down category lists, a great many of the capable folks who had sewn in industry in years past had retired and the youngsters coming through had little or no idea of what it is to sew, let alone how to switch on a sewing machine.

We seem to have timed things perfectly.  While we’ve been growing our business, sewing has come back into fashion under the guise of ‘make do and mend’, the anti ‘fast fashion’ movement and upcycling. 

Since day one we’ve been developing our own training course for machinists which goes beyond the long drawn out process of night school once a week or queuing for a machine at uni.  Its turned out to be one of the most important part of our staff recruitment and induction process and it has set a very high bar on skills, capability and employability.

Eight stage training (EST)

First introduced into the induction process at Red Dragon Flagmakers in 2016, the Eight Stage Training programme (EST) has developed into a go to pathway to enable the application of confidence and keys skills in the manufacture of textile goods, and specifically traditional sewn flags.

We’ve developed the Eight Stage Training programme which we believe is uniquely able to teach someone within eight weeks how to produce a quality sewn flag from drawing board to completion and client delivery.

Flags as a product may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is a product which requires acute attention to detail, precision and confidence and we believe it to be the perfect platform for training, over an above fashion or soft furnishings.  As we produce custom flags every day, and no two are the same, the standard of workmanship has to be high so that we consistently deliver above client expectations and keep the benchmark as high as possible.

There is simply no margin for error and the skills are transferable over to the manufacture of any other textile goods.

Staff training

So how does it work? As an employer you find your own staff, old or newbies and book them onto our course. 

The eight stages of the EST are specifically called ‘stages’ rather than weeks as initial skills base, capability and speed of learning differs between individuals – some take three weeks to complete the programme, one previous trainee (and now employee) took five months.

The first criteria is that the individual has to want to do this training.  There’s no point in having someone come along because they have to. Please bear that in mind when making your selection.

We ask for 16 hrs a week commitment, so that can be

  • 4hrs per day x 4 days a week
  • 5, 5 and 6 hrs per day over three days
  • 8 and 8 hrs per day over two days.

Trainee assessment

We assess each trainee before during and after the EST course and each trainee is also asked to self- assess and feedback on their experiences and what they’ve learned during their time with us.  Both these sets of information are shared with the employer but are otherwise strictly confidential and only retained by us as a means of monitoring training outcomes.

Course content

EST includes the following core skills development:

  • Introduction to a sewing machine
  • Zigzag techniques and applique skills
  • Trimming and finish of applique
  • Industry standard seams and stitches
  • Fabric tensile qualities, stretch, warp and weft
  • How to cut fabric
  • Calculating measurements and allowances
  • Standardising product
  • Confidence building
  • Decision making
  • Team participation
  • Working alone
  • Accepting failures and how to turn them into successes
  • Willpower
  • Communication with peers
  • Respect for others, discretion, honesty and loyalty
  • Contribution to change
  • Attention to detail and instructions
  • Production speed
  • Working independently.

Outcomes and accreditation

EST enables a trainee’s ability to work in textile goods production industries and is now an induction route to the employment-based Apprenticeship in Sewn Textile Goods Production at Gower College, Swansea launched in February 2019 on a rolling basis. 

Enquiries about the Apprenticeship should be made to:  Elinor Franklin, Gower College, Swansea. Em:

Enquiries about the EST programme should be made to:  Jo Ashburner, Red Dragon Flagmakers, Swansea. Em:

Cost to employer

  • £3840 plus vat per trainee
  • Eight weeks at min 16 hours a week, totally no more than 128 hrs
  • Balance payable in total before training commences
  • Beyond the eight weeks, each additional hour charged at the base rate of £30 plus vat ph on a minimum weekly basis of £480 plus vat and payable within seven days of the date of our invoice.

Small print

It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the trainee is suitable for the programme. All trainees must agree to being punctual, attentive and commit to the course content. Trainees are not the responsibility of Red Dragon Flagmakers but will be dismissed without penalty to Red Dragon Flagmakers if they in any way disrupt the working environment according to the rules of the course content. Every trainee will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement in relation to Red Dragon Flagmakers.

Red Dragon Flagmakers is fully public liability, employee and trainee insured.