“The trainers trained me in a critical process (bottom hem). My brother [was] surprised and said that a senior male operator needs at least 6 months to learn it, [so] how can I learn it in 15 days!”
Meet Mukta.* She’s a sewing machine operator. After her marriage broke up, her brother suggested that she could start work at a factory that is a Primark supplier. That was in December 2017 and Mukta hadn’t yet turned 20.
Mukta became a trainee on a programme called Sudokkho, a project funded by the UK and Swiss governments where Primark is a partner. It is just one of the programmes that we have supported since 2011 to increase opportunities for women across our supply chain. The programmes are designed to help women to develop their skills and helps them overcome barriers around promotion and job progression with the overall goal of creating better workplace environments.
We focus on women because around the world they are typically some of the most vulnerable people in our supply chain. Our hope is that by helping more female workers progress in their roles and ensuring they are better represented in the workforce, they will have the opportunity to earn better salaries, better career progression and will be a starting point towards addressing gender imbalances in factories globally.
We are planning to extend these programmes to more factories and workers by 2030. We want to build on what we have already learnt to cover more countries, and crucially more workers.
For Mukta and women like her, it makes a lot of sense to join Sudokkho and similar programmes. They learn new technical skills through structured, in-house training that allows them to move up the ladder faster than normal, with a better prospect of promotion and salary increases.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Once she’d finished her training, Mukta’s co-workers doubted her new skills. They didn’t want to give her a chance – until they saw what she could do. For Mukta, the Sudokkho training was life changing – just as it has been for many other women.
Now her employers consider her a multi-skilled operator and one of their go-to workers when it comes to taking on board new processes.
Factories and Sudokkho
The Sudokkho programme not only helps women like Mukta, it also helps the factories that supply Primark as it means they can access a skilled workforce faster. A study of this programme showed that well-trained workers generally achieve 50% performance within 15 to 20 days of completing the programme, whereas it typically takes an untrained worker 3 to 4 months to reach the same standard. The secret of the success? The Sudokkho programme is focused on faster and more efficient training.
Sudokkho’s “train the trainer” model also means that the project selects and trains the factory's own trainers and assessors to pass on their knowledge and run the factory’s own training centre. This way, the factory gets to develop its own better-skilled and motivated workforce.
Mr Shipu, manager for compliance and admin, has commented that this aspect of the programme has helped his factory better tackle workforce management:
“After implementing the Sudokkho project, if any critical process workers are absent, the Sudokkho trainer finds other operation workers and trains them on particular processes. Upskilling these workers helps us significantly to overcome issues caused by absenteeism.”
Our Customers and Sudokkho
We know it’s important for our customers to hear about the people who make the clothes they buy, and it’s important to us, too.
Since we first started collaborating with the UK and Swiss Governments on the Sudokkho programme in 2016, it has reached 16,000 workers in more than 50 factories in Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, the Covid 19 pandemic’s impact on this and other programmes has been significant and continues still. But workers and managers have given Primark so much positive feedback on the Sudokkho programme, that our team is now preparing to relaunch the programme as the Sudokkho Factory Based Training programme.
Primark Programmes for Women and Vulnerable Workers
Sudokkho is just one of the initiatives we’ve worked on with governments, NGOs and our on-the-ground Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability team. There are many others. Many of them are smaller in scale because they’re highly targeted and designed for local conditions. Having said that, given the size of our business, they have potential to scale up to help even more people.
Collectively, these initiatives contribute to Primark’s commitment to becoming a more sustainable business by supporting gender equality and contributing women’s empowerment.
*This story is based on a real-life case study, but all personal details have been changed.