Mary Hennessy, president of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), and Tatjana Hutnyak, board chair of The Makers Coalition (TMC), led a session on the show floor at IFAI Expo 2016 to talk with show participants about IFAI’s Makers Division, which is working in partnership with TMC to address an acute industry problem—the shortage of trained, skilled workers in the specialty fabrics industry.
TMC is a coalition of businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits and service providers coming together to build a trained cut-and-sew industry for America.
Currently, the two organizations are developing relationships with schools to implement the Makers Industrial Sewing Curriculum and establishing a National Standards of Apprenticeship program for sewing machine operators, which has been approved by U.S. Department of Labor. “This is going to be a real benefit to the industry,” says Jonathan Curry, IFAI Makers Division supervisor. “Employers will be able to have confidence that if they’ve hired sewers on at an apprenticeship level, then the employee will have acquired the skills covered in our curriculum.”
Although both groups’ scope of work is broad, the TMC is the creator of the curriculum content and manages the apprenticeship program, and the Makers Division handles the execution portion and the connection with the industry.
According to Hutnyak, the apprenticeship is designed to take the program to the next level: on-the-job training. Federal funds are available to support the one-year, 2,000-hour training program. It is a national program, so a graduate can get a journeyman card and be hired in any state. Hennessey noted that the Industrial Fabrics Foundation (IFF) has donated $120,000 over the next two years to support the program, and will be implementing a “Job Board” on the association’s website to bring program graduates and IFAI manufacturer members together.
For more information on the training programs, read “The future workforce” in the October issue of Specialty Fabrics Review, or visit specialtyfabricsreview.com/2016/10/01/the-future-workforce.
Galynn Nordstrom is senior editor of Specialty Fabrics Review magazine.