Suzette McHugh and Sam Buff
A comprehensive industry-driven personnel recruiting and training program for North Carolina textile manufacturers will start in early 2015.
The program is being launched by the Textile Technology Center on the Kimbrell campus of Gaston College. The center received a $150,000 recurring appropriation from the General Assembly during the recent session.
A revival in the state’s textile industry has created a shortage of trained personnel for technology-driven jobs. According to Sam Buff, director of the center, the industry over the past year invested $523 million in facilities and equipment and added 1,080 jobs.
Sophisticated technology and automation are changing the face of textiles manufacturing and the workforce, Buff asserts.
Coordinating the training program is Suzette McHugh who has worked in textiles as a product development stylist and market development executive. Ms. McHugh is surveying companies to pinpoint immediate needs. The process includes personal interviews with executives to determine what current training protocols are used.
At the same time, Ms. McHugh said the recruiting process will include outreach to public schools to educate students about opportunities and skills needed in future manufacturing. The program also will reach middle-age unemployed people who are willing to enter training programs.
A similar program is underway at the Manufacturing Solutions Center at Catawba Valley Community College which also received a $150,000 recurring appropriation. The MSC will expand its in-plant training services, reports director Dan St. Louis.
“We are covered up with requests from mills with a backlong of orders and who are looking for technicians to operate knitting equipment,” St. Louis said. The demand is coming from hosiery and apparel manufacturers throughout North Carolina, including the Carolina Textile District centered in Burke County.
The Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council encouraged the General Assembly to fund the training efforts and participated in the appropriations process.