Textile Technologist

The Job and What's Involved

Textile technologists are interested in the scientific make-up of fibres, yarns and materials. They may work in production engineering, production management, sourcing or quality control. Using their technical knowledge, a textile technologist may also be responsible for solving manufacturing and production problems.

There are different specialist roles for a textile technologist. Some textile technologists are responsible for carrying out research and product development, while others advise on construction methods to ensure textiles are being produced efficiently and meet the required production specifications.

Specialist duties may include:

  • Advising on the selection and maintenance of machinery.
  • Researching more efficient production methods.
  • Programming patterns into computers for textile production machines.
  • Conducting quality checks on the robustness of fabrics for particular uses.
  • Sourcing and selecting yarns and materials from external suppliers.
  • Liaising with suppliers to get the right fabric at the right price.
  • Testing yarns and coloured fabrics to see if materials are colour fast (non-fading).

Some textile technologists may be involved in the research and development of new yarns and materials. This work typically includes laboratory testing of materials and processes and may involve:

  • Developing fabrics with a particular appearance and texture.
  • Applying knowledge of chemicals to improve properties such as waterproofing, crease-proofing, flame resistance and shrink resistance.
  • Experimenting with dyeing or printing processes.
  • Developing innovative new processes and materials.
  • Testing new colour recipes.

Technologists may be involved in the development of technical textiles and clothing for specialist applications in the automotive, defence, medical, information technology (IT), agriculture and aerospace industries.

As well as specialising in different aspects of the production process, textile technologists often focus on the production of one particular type of material, such as synthetic, cotton, wool or carpet textiles.

Textile technologists often supervise or manage a team of textile operatives and technicians. They may also work with colleagues in other teams to make decisions relating to buying, marketing, sales or design.

A textile technologist typically works around 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. They may work longer hours to meet deadlines or liaise with overseas suppliers. Some technologists may work shifts including evenings and weekends. Part-time and contract work may also be possible.

The work can be based in a laboratory, factory or office. Some textile technologists spend large amounts of time in the production area working alongside operatives and technicians on the factory floor, while others may be largely based in an office within the production facility. They may also spend time in a laboratory environment when conducting fabric testing.

Travel, both in the UK and overseas, is common to meet suppliers and manufacturers in different locations. Technologists may also be required to visit trade fairs and exhibitions in the UK and abroad.

When using hazardous chemicals, textile technologists are required to wear protective clothing, such as overalls, gloves, safety footwear and masks. Ear protectors are sometimes required in the production area.

Starting salaries for trainee textile technologists may be around £20,000 a year. With more experience this may increase to £25,000, potentially reaching between £35,000 and £40,000 a year.

A research and development textile technologist or those with management duties may earn up to £45,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Job opportunities for this specialised role tend to be quite localised, near regions traditionally associated with textile production. These include the East Midlands, the north-west, Yorkshire, Central Scotland and Northern Ireland. Opportunities that are not factory based may also be available in London.

The development and production of technical and performance textiles is a growing field in the UK. Jobs exist within clothing companies and specialist industrial textile manufacturers.

Vacancies and training opportunities are usually advertised in newspapers and industry publications or websites such as www.fashionpersonnel.co.uk Some employers recruit staff through specialist recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

Most direct entrants to textile technologist posts have a degree or HND in a relevant area. Useful subjects include applied, physical, mathematical or textile science, textile management and manufacturing engineering. Work experience in a relevant environment such as a production facility may help.

Entry to a degree is usually with a minimum of two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent. Candidates should check with individual institutions for specific grade and subject requirements.

While postgraduate study is not essential, Masters degrees are available in textile science, colour science, clothing manufacture and textile management.

The Diplomas in manufacturing and product design or in science (from September 2011) may be relevant for this area of work.

Larger employers may offer management training schemes.

Without a degree, it may be possible for operatives or technicians to work their way up to a technologist post. Some companies may sponsor a promising candidate through a degree or masters programme.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Technologists are generally trained on the job under the supervision of more experienced colleagues, which can include short job rotations, in areas such as quality control, buying and product development, to acquire a good all-round knowledge before specialising. Some large companies may require their technologists to complete further laboratory training.

The Textile Institute offers internationally recognised professional qualifications Licentiateship, Associateship and Fellowship levels.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Textile technologists should be:

  • Excellent leaders and negotiators.
  • Knowledgeable about production processes and the properties of raw materials, related chemicals and coatings.
  • Good problem solvers.
  • Strong communicators.
  • Creative and resourceful.
  • Responsible and able to prioritise.
  • Organised and decisive.
  • Confident working with computers and new technologies.
  • Self-motivated.
  • Aware of health and safety regulations.
  • Physically fit, with normal colour vision for certain roles.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, textile technologists may take on wider responsibility for areas such as colour, technical management, production or quality control.

Progression can be more limited within smaller organisations. Relocating or moving employers may be necessary.

Experienced technologists can find job opportunities overseas in countries where manufacturing is increasingly taking place, such as India and China.

Self-employment or consultancy work may be possible for very experienced technologists, potentially leading to general management work or setting up a textile company.

Get Further Information

North West Texnet, The i-zone,
Deane Road, Bolton, Lancashire BL3 5AB
Tel: 01204 374840
Website: www.nwtexnet.co.uk

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road,
London, N1 9GB
Tel: 020 7713 9800
Website: www.skillset.org

Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC),
Perkin House, 82 Grattan Road,
Bradford BD1 2LU
Tel: 01274 725138
Website: www.sdc.org.uk

Technitex, Arch 30,
North Campus Incubator, Altrincham Street,
off Sackville Street, Manchester M1 3NJ
Tel: 0161 306 8500
Website: www.technitex.org

The 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 Buildings,
Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ
Tel: 0161 237 1188
Website: www.texi.org

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