The Makers Movement is bringing back into mainstream consciousness the honor, skill and dedication it takes to create custom goods—and it’s about time. Sewing, designing and creating never went away—they’ve always been the bedrock of custom textile work—but now that their value is being more broadly recognized, coupled with the fact that many lifelong makers are retiring, the textile industry is actively seeking to encourage and train the next generation of sewers.
Two vital programs are in motion to help sewers get a solid start in the industry, as well as help manufacturers fill key positions within their companies: a comprehensive sewing curriculum and a nationally recognized apprenticeship program.
IFAI Makers Division finalized its Industrial Sewing Certificate Program and is actively working with technical schools and high schools throughout the United States to offer them the standardized, comprehensive curriculum that was developed by the Makers Coalition of Minnesota, a coalition of businesses, educational institutions, non-profit organizations and service providers coming together to build a trained cut-and-sew industry in the United States.
The curriculum contains 14 course topics that include technical skills such as machine control; standardized work methods; and types of industrial sewing machines, seams stitches and finishes; and soft skills such as workplace conduct and ergonomics. “Our goal is to make it so that there is sewing machine operator training in technical schools throughout the U.S.,” says Linden Wicklund, division supervisor, IFAI.
The apprenticeship program
The Makers Coalition of Minnesota, with the support of IFAI Makers Division, has also been spearheading efforts for national standards of apprenticeship for the occupation of industrial sewing machine operator through the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship. A nationally recognized apprenticeship program will establish minimum standards of education and experience a sewer will need to have before entering the workforce as an apprentice. The program is pending approval but is expected to be finalized before the end of 2016.
“The creation of national standards in conjunction with the standardized curriculum will mean that employers can hire apprentices with the confidence that they have the necessary skills to do the job from the start,” says Jonathan Curry, IFAI Makers Division supervisor.