Textile Dyeing Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Textile dyeing technicians mix and apply the dyes that colour natural and synthetic fibres, yarns and fabrics. This involves conducting sample experiments and checks in a laboratory. Quality control is an important aspect of the job. Technicians working in this area may also be involved in printing, bleaching and waterproofing fabrics or recommending other textile finishes.

When a customer requests a specific colour, a textile dyeing technician will typically:

  • Work out the chemical dye formula, taking into account how the textile will absorb the colour.
  • Measure out dyes or chemicals in a powder or liquid form to test a small fabric sample.
  • Compare the strength and shade of dye so that it matches the customer's requirements.
  • Make adjustments to the mix and machine settings until a perfect colour match is achieved.
  • Calculate the temperature and application technique for specific textile materials.
  • Carry out tests and quality checks to see if dyed samples are colourfast.
  • Document the dye recipes and processes for each textile order, for future reference.

The majority of the dyeing and testing processes are computer-controlled. The additional use of equipment for quality tests makes a technician's job highly technical.

Textile dyeing technicians usually report directly to the laboratory supervisor. They are likely to have direct contact with other technicians and machine operatives. Additional responsibilities may include selecting and placing dye and chemical orders. Technicians also have a duty to maintain a sterile and safe working environment. Equipment has to be cleaned thoroughly to prevent colours contaminating other dye mixes.

Most textile dyeing technicians work around 39 hours a week from Monday to Friday. Those working in a production environment may be required to work in a shift pattern or at weekends. Flexible shifts and part-time opportunities are widely available.

Dyeing technicians are usually based in a factory dye house or within a specialist dyeing laboratory. Work conditions in the mixing and processing areas can get hot and humid, although many dye houses have equipment installed to extract fumes and steam.

When handling chemicals or working in the dyeing area, technicians wear protective clothing. This can include overalls, safety footwear, and possibly head coverings and a face mask.

Starting salaries for trained textile dyeing technicians may be around £17,000 a year. Technicians with a few years' experience may earn between £20,000 and £22,000 a year.
Senior technicians may earn up to £30,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employment opportunities exist within large textile manufacturing laboratories and with firms that specialise in dyeing and finishing. Most jobs are based in the traditional textile production locations, including the north of England, the Scottish Borders region and the Midlands. Some dyeing is also carried out in South Wales and the West of England.

There is a steady demand for textile dyeing technicians, so opportunities for new entrants and skilled workers are good. Colour vision may be tested on recruitment.

Vacancies and training opportunities are usually advertised in local and national newspapers, Connexions centres, Jobcentre Plus offices, and industry publications. Some employers and associations have online job sections.

Education and Training

There are various routes into this profession. Due to the technical nature of the job, a high level of scientific knowledge is usually required. Employers tend to set their own entry requirements, which could range from a Foundation degree or HNC/HND to a degree.

Employers may look for candidates with qualifications in maths, chemistry, science, textiles, textile technology, or design and technology. Many of the fashion and textile courses available in the UK cover the manufacturing and colour production process.

The Level 3 Award, Certificate or Diploma in textiles may provide candidates with some of the skills needed for a career in this area. The University of Leeds also runs a specialist BA Honours degree course in design and colour technology.

It may also be possible for new entrants to begin a career in this area through an Apprenticeship in textile manufacturing.

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

Most initial training is provided on the job, working alongside more experienced colleagues. Apprentices and trainee textile dyeing technicians can work towards NVQ Levels 1 to 3 in manufacturing textiles, which include options on developing and testing colour combinations.

The Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC) runs a range of professional courses for dyeing technicians. These include distance learning and short courses in a range of relevant qualifications, which can lead to Chartered Colourist status.

The SDC also offers various levels of professional membership, depending on experience and qualifications. Corporate membership is available only to those aged over 23 who have been trained in colour science or technology.

The Textile Institute also offers globally recognised professional qualifications for people working within the textile industry. Associateships and Fellowships are chartered qualifications and based on breadth of knowledge and work experience. The Licentiateship qualification requires less work experience.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Textile dyeing technicians need:

  • Good eyesight.
  • Normal colour vision, with the ability to distinguish subtle differences between shades.
  • An understanding of chemistry.
  • A practical and creative mind.
  • The ability to analyse and solve problems.
  • Attention to detail.
  • A responsible approach to safety.
  • Good verbal and written communication skills.
  • Self-motivation, but also need to enjoy working within a larger team.
  • Confidence in using computers and computer-controlled machinery.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, textile dyeing technicians may move into supervisory roles, or into textile research and development or quality control.

Some may move across into technical sales or management positions, dealing directly with suppliers and managing a team of employees.

Opportunities also exist for colourists to research and develop dyes and colour pigments in other industry sectors.

Corporate membership of the SDC or a Masters degree in colour science may help progression. Consultancy work may be possible for highly experienced dye and colour technicians.

Get Further Information

Scottish Enterprise,
Apex House, 99 Haymarket Terrace,
Edinburgh EH12 5DH
Tel: 0131 313 6243
Website: www.scottish-enterprise.com

Skillfast-UK, Richmond House,
Lawnswood Business Park,
Redvers Close, Leeds LS16 6RD
Tel: 0113 2399600
Website: www.skillfast-uk.org

The Society of Dyers and Colourists (SDC),
PO Box 244, Perkin House,
82 Grattan Road, Bradford BD1 2JB
Tel: 01274 725138
Website: www.sdc.org.uk

Textile Centre for 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 2371188
Website: www.texi.org

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