Road work ahead

October 1st, 2016 / By: / Editorial

In the November 1933 issue of The National Canvas Goods Manufacturers Review, Manager-Editor McGregor said, “Unregulated competition was wasting natural resources, ruining worthwhile business enterprise, and exploiting human labor. … We live in a highly integrated business civilization requiring a new set of industrial principles.” In the November 2015 issue of Specialty Fabrics Review, our 100th anniversary issue, we wrote about a century’s worth of industry issues that change over time but have stayed with us—and the need for a reliable, skilled workforce tops the list.

Europe and Asia are far ahead of the U.S. when it comes to partnerships among government, industry and academia to advance technology, drive manufacturing and foster innovation, but there are now many initiatives here as well, such as the Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute (manufacturing.gov). Manufacturing growth would seem a natural spur to employment—although advances in technology and robotics could adulterate some of that growth—but expecting industry to drive employment has always seemed to me to be something of a “trickle-down” theory.

Business and labor both function best when policies are complementary, not competitive. Just yesterday (Sept. 13), the U.S. House voted to approve a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, to help train workers in jobs that align with employers’ labor needs. Demand is shifting, and supply is starting to respond.

The government of Russia is planning to invest $300 million toward developing its technical textiles industry (pg. 70), with particular emphasis on the defense, aerospace and geosynthetics industries. Geosynthetics guru Bob Koerner, after spending 40 years working to advance the industry, notes: “There are so many engineering students graduating who could come into this field, but they don’t because they don’t know anything about it” (“In for the long haul,” pg. 66). In “The Last Word” (pg. 80), Marine Tech’s Sandy Sturner says: “I’m not sure that the decreased need for employees due to implementing new technology will outpace the lack of a skilled workforce.”

On page 34, “The future workforce” discusses pilot programs for the Makers Division Industrial Sewing Certificate curriculum, as well as the establishment of  a National Standard of Apprenticeship program through the U.S. Department of Labor. On Wednesday, Oct. 19, at IFAI Expo in Charlotte, the Makers Division will sponsor a Round Table Meeting from 12:30pm-1:30pm in the Membership Lounge Area, open to all attendees. As a pool of graduates becomes available, IFAI will also be working hard to match qualified employees with the employers that need them.

I made an apron, mostly by accident, in 8th grade Home Ec class. Gingham, I think. Pink. The teacher rolled her eyes and told me that, with help, I’d probably be able to hem curtains and stuff.

I never mentioned this when I was hired at IFAI.

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