Clothing Presser

The Job and What's Involved

Clothing pressers use steam pressing machines and irons to remove the wrinkles from and re-shape items of clothing.

They tend to work for manufacturers that produce large volumes of clothing for high street, mail order or specialist clothing companies. Other companies such as tailors and dry cleaners also employ clothing pressers.

Pressing is required at many different stages of the production process. 'Underpressing' is carried out using steam pressing machines during production. Once the garment has been put together, pressing is again required to shape and smooth the design.

For this final pressing, different machines are used depending on the type of garment, the fabric used and the overall finish required. These include:

Carousel presses where garments are carefully hung on shaped supports which are fed into the machine and steam pressed automatically.

Tunnel presses where garments are put on hangers, hung on a conveyor, and passed through a steam tunnel.

Flatbeds which are usually used for knitwear. A frame appropriate to the size of garment is used and steam is sent through the garment to relax the fabric. The steam is then vacuumed out, fixing the fabric to the correct size and shape.

Many machines are computer controlled. The presser may also be responsible for adjusting the temperature or speed of the machine to suit the fabric being used.

Hand pressing, using steam irons and vacuum pressers, can be used for delicate or intricate items, awkward features and hems. A 'steam dolly' is used for garments such as shirts which have many different parts to press such as the collar, cuffs and sleeves.

Clothing pressers usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week, which may include shift work. Part-time work and flexible hours may be possible. Overtime may be available at busy times such as at the end of large production runs.

Those working for a large company are usually based in a separate pressing room within the factory. In some places, pressers may work alongside the machinists on the main factory floor. Pressing rooms can get very hot and humid but good ventilation can help.

Clothing pressers spend all day on their feet and some bending and stretching is involved. Larger companies may provide uniforms or protective workwear for their pressers.

The starting salary for a clothing presser may be around £11,000 a year. With experience and training, this may increase to between £12,000 and £13,000 a year.

Fully experienced clothing pressers may earn around £14,000 a year and those with extra responsibilities, such as training, may earn more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 43,000 people work in clothing manufacture in the UK. Large-scale clothing manufacturing is concentrated in specific areas of the UK and around a quarter of the workforce is based in the East Midlands. Other significant manufacturing regions are Yorkshire, Humberside, Scotland, North West England and Northern Ireland. Opportunities also exist with dry cleaning companies which are found throughout the UK.

It is becoming increasingly common for employers to look for candidates with transferable skills who can work in a variety of different areas within the factory in addition to their pressing role. Desirable skills include sewing machine operation, garment-cutting knowledge and garment-grading skills.

Jobs are advertised in local newspapers, in Jobcentre Plus offices and Connexions centres. There are often more vacancies than applicants.

Education and Training

Although there are no formal entry requirements for this job, applicants need to show they can be reliable, follow instructions, and have an awareness of health and safety issues. Knowledge of basic IT and experience in machine operation are also useful.

There are a number of relevant qualifications available, which can help prepare an applicant for a career in this area, including NVQ qualifications at Level 2 in the following areas:

- Manufacturing sewn products
- Dry cleaning operations
- Dry cleaning service support

These qualifications cover the main elements of the sector, which include cutting, sewing, sealing and pressing.

Apprenticeships may be available, which can also lead to these qualifications.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Clothing pressers usually train on the job with an instructor or more experienced presser. They practice on old or rejected garments until the instructor becomes satisfied they are confident with the processes. Pressers need to become familiar with a range of pressing machines to be able to work efficiently.

Those who have not already completed an NVQ qualification may be encouraged to work towards one of the subjects listed above, whilst on the job. This can be a good way of developing and widening an employee's skills.

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A clothing presser needs:

  • To be able to follow set procedures for operating the pressing machines.
  • To be patient, methodical and good at working with their hands.
  • The ability to work quickly to high standards.
  • The ability to do repetitive work.
  • An eye for detail.
  • To take pride in their work.
  • Reasonable physical fitness to cope with the demands of the role.

Your Long Term Prospects

The opportunities for career progression are likely to depend on the size of the company. With relevant skills and experience, clothing pressers may be able to progress into supervisory positions, where they are responsible for a number of presses and a unit of up to around 30 workers. They would be responsible for allocating work, monitoring output and checking quality. They may also be involved in training new staff.

There may be further opportunities to move into related roles, such as sewing machining, quality control, packing, pattern cutting or pattern grading. The completion of relevant NVQ qualifications would be seen as advantageous when making this type of career move.

Get Further Information

Skillfast-UK, Richmond House,
Lawnswood Business Park, Redvers Close, Leeds LS16 6RD
Tel: 0113 239 9600
Websites: www.skillfast-uk.org and www.skillfast-uk.org/justthejob

Textile Centre of Excellence, Textile House,
Red Doles Lane, Huddersfield HD2 1YF
Tel: 01484 346500
Website: www.textilehouse.co.uk

The Textile Institute,
1st Floor, St. James's Building, Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ
Tel: 0161 237 1188
Website: www.textileinstitute.org

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