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Textile Technology Center receives $150,000 from state

Textile industry leaders state the need for a more skilled workforce, while young people often try to steer clear of textile jobs.

18th August 2014

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Gaston, NC

Industrial, Clothing/​Footwear

A part of Gaston College in North Carolina dedicated to helping the textile industry has received a boost last week with the passage of the state budget.

The Textile Technology Center on the Kimbrell campus received $150,000 in extra funding to help train workers. The money comes during a state wide uptick for the industry, which has seen $513 million in new investment and the creation of 810 jobs in the last year, said Joe Keith, dean of the Kimbrell campus and Textile Technology Center in Belmont.

“We know we’ll be training some of those new workers, and we may be training some of the existing workers on changes in technology,” Keith said.

Need for skilled workforce

Textile industry leaders state the need for a more skilled workforce, while young people entering the job market often try to steer clear of textile jobs, said Sam Buff, Director of the Textile Technology Center. But textile jobs often do not resemble the physically demanding, dirty jobs of the past, he explained.

“Textiles can be a hard sell to young people because many of them have had a family member who’s had a negative experience with job loss,” Buff said. “But as the industry returns to North Carolina, the jobs now are more advanced. The mills don’t have near the number of employees that they used to have, but they produce a lot more and it’s the technology. Some of these plants are just lights out they’re so automated,” he said.

Jobs coming back

More than 46,000 North Carolina residents worked in textiles last year, making it the second largest manufacturing sector — behind only wood. Sen. Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston was one of the Senate’s chief budget writers, who helped push through the money for the Textile Technology Center. She said the money will help the industry state wide in training workers.

The college plans to first do a needs assessment and then figure out how to best reach workers, whether in a classroom or via online training.

College officials praised legislators for showing confidence in an industry they believe will remain an important part of the state economy.  “Our industry has just had so much bad press over the years,” Buff said. “But it’s a strong and vibrant industry, and I’m glad to see so many jobs coming back.”

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