Workforce Development For The American Fashion Industry


The Workforce Development Institute is a nonprofit organization headquartered out of Albany and troy but we cover ten regions of New York. State So I I cover. The New York City region are broad mission is to help. New Yorkers obtaining keep good jobs So we do that in a number of ways. We're a convener for a great conversations that help of Industry Job Seekers We connect Entities to one another for sources of technical assistance and funding We're we provide grants in some cases to both manufacturers and Don Profit organizations that train job seekers As well as supporting unions so In my role as the New York City regional director in my in the piece of my work that focuses on supporting manufacturing I kind of naturally focused on the apparel manufacturing sector because there were many many needs Facing those companies but really we help Manufacturers across the board and get involved in lots of different workforce initiatives. Your question about what is Workforce Development For for the Fashion Business was workforce development. Sure will I think we're I think it applies to generally as well as for the fashion. Business really workforce development is looking at both the skill needs of employers to be able to remain competitive and You know produce. In the case of manufacturing produce their product sufficiently and it's also the need for skill development for job seekers and training programs that address those needs and allows people to earn a living wage and have a good quality job. So it's really both both those things in the apparel manufacturing sector there are lots of challenges around that A lot of that related to the store. Ecole offshoring of the industry And then some such subsequent growth in some reassuring but really different challenges and needs a major real estate crisis here in New York City and so I think a lot of apparel manufacturers are in what I would call survival mode They're not really able to focus much on training their incumbent workforce as they probably would like to. They're wearing so many hats they're juggling so many things they're dealing with a rising rents many of them have to move multiple times because they're Leeson's and they try to fund a new lease so they're just many many pain points for Apparel Manufacturers in particular and that's an area where I've tried to focus on providing some assistance to those companies. Now is it normal for a state to provide this? Is this something. That's in all fifty. It's actually really unusual and when I meet with people in other states there especially manufacturers. They're kind of jealous that. Wd exists in New York state. So the way our funding works is that we We're funded by the state Senate and so- senators Put Our budget request into the state budget every year and hopefully Nine Times edits ahead and we. We don't get cut at all and the GOVERNOR OKAYS OUR BUDGET. And so that's that's how that works but we are an independent nonprofit but we do rely on The state legislature who CNN. For the work that we do and so have continued to push for that support for us. We're grateful for that. So many of our listeners are from other states. Would it be possible for another state to also fund your organization and and get your resources into their? I mean we are very much near state. Focus but certainly We DO GET INVOLVED. Nationally in some initiatives so we we look at Look workforce strategies and we some of our staff do attend conferences and other states and kind of share our lessons learned here in New York. Stay so we're Very happy to share expertise and You Know Lease Organization of the Urban Manufacturing Alliance Was at their conference in Pittsburgh a year and a half ago. And so I you know we. We do kind of collaborate with folks in other states that are doing related work and try and share best practice and this may be pretty obvious question but why does the fashion business need workforce development. What's why do people need to be trained for for new jobs in the fashion business? Well for anybody sure. Why don't someone else someone else can weigh in? And I can jump in after that. I think when we talk about made in. Us initiatives in this country You know trade union professionals manufacturers all talk about the bottleneck being just a labor shortage in general and I think very simply put. That's because a lot of people don't WANNA working garment factories. They they have the vision of that as like Norma. Rae Standing on top of the you know the the spinning machine. And it's not that anymore so I think that's one problem and I think the second problem is that there's new equipment coming into factories and that requires people to have different skill sets than they might have had being a traditional sewing machine operator or cutter on a factory floor. The other thing I would add is much of the sustained job losses that were faced by the manufacturing sector came from a parallel textile. And still there are families that over generations watch watched opportunities get washed out So that's I think fueling in part the perception gap that there aren't opportunities Associated with the sewn trades and then additionally when you have job losses of those Of that magnitude You have a workforce apparatus that gets dismantled and so we have a lot of rebuilding to do as a city And really this is true of cities. Nationally To reinvigorate Not only the hearts and minds of people thinking about opportunities in this own trades but also the underlying workforce infrastructure that supports those firms. And I think also we're seeing right. Now is a resurgence of small lot production which is really where. New York City thrives. We've ton of small factories can get quick production into the market. And what we're faced with right now is a generational gap. We have sores. Were aging out of the workforce. And nobody's coming up behind them so if we're going to continue to be able to keep up with the demand of small production we do need to be looking forward. The people who are going to be retiring and replacing them in the workforce. And if somebody goes into this as their job if they get the training is it going to be a good paying job for a long time? Because I think that would be a question most people would have. I won't I'm going to be trained to be a professional sewer that is is that a career absolutely. It's a great job and the sewers. I mean at me mill so me Mills. I work within the Millennium Mills Office in Sunset Park so we are kind of a for profit nonprofit partnership and our soldiers have been with us for fifteen years and they're amazing they get paid well and they get benefits and I think that's increasingly becoming the norm. I feel as if there needs to be new value or renewed value. Put on sewing pattern making and just the trade in general. So what made you was it? What made you identify this need and start to train. And how did you? How did you even start the training? Can I call it a school or kind of all came about when we moved out to sunset park and you know I had been working in a garment production factory before this bridal and then moved over to handling Molina's production and I really wanted to open my own factory and I I couldn't find people to so and I was trying to navigate this very complex way of word of mouth trying to find through our sewers and other sewer who might know someone who might know somebody else who needed a job for a week you know. It's this really really cumbersome process and what I realized was the people who were hiring were in their sixties and they WANNA and worked for two days a week and that's not really what we needed. We needed a full-time sour and we need multiple fulltime sewers. So I came up with this program I it's built in modules and it's in three languages currently so I can train in Spanish Mandarin and English in part. Because of the millennials team We Have Cantonese Mandarin and Spanish speakers on staff so they really helped me a ton and it's been incredibly gratifying to see how people take to selling and the confidence that comes with it and how factories where we play students are responding to it. I think people are really excited to get new people in and help them and foster their development and I just like to add that so. Wd I funded Course of trade. Because we saw that I mean I've been visiting garment factories for the last four years and I'm consistently hearing about a need for skilled sewers In my kind of investigations into this Really students aren't learning those industrial skills anymore. And even at the C. T. E. Highschool secured at technical education high schools. Students are learning some of those skills. But they're really really. They're all choosing to go into a career as a fashion designer for the most part so there hasn't been that emphasis on those industrial skills as much as there was in the past. So there's been a real lack of training programs. I spent a couple years trying to look into. What are the training programs How could we put something together? Is there a factory that would loan their space in the evening or could we do it at the high school? Fit's labs are so oversubscribed. It's very difficult to schedule. Training programs they are for adult learners. So got introduced to Libyan heard about the training that she had developed and we were really excited to put some funding toward that to be able so so that she could train more people and fill more of those open roles. Lisa helped us get sixteen new machines which is

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