First Cohort of Industrial Sewing Certificate Program Graduate this Month
This month, Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and Public Thread's Industrial Commercial Sewing Certificate Program cohort graduates.
The 16-week course certifies students as skilled industrial sewers, a career with wages starting from $17 to $23 per hour. The program costs $100 for Grand Rapids residents and $500 for non-residents.
The partnership is part of the GRCC's Workforce Training, a program that provides relevant and responsive training to create opportunities for community members and meet workforce demand.
Maeve Young is one of the instructors of the Industrial Sewing Certificate Program.
"There is a singular moment that I see happen," Young expressed. "It's when they are working on something flat and two-dimensional, I show them an operation that introduces that third dimension, they have an epiphany. It's always that moment that I love."
Young became a certified industrial sewist in 2016 through another program. Upon graduating, she worked as a sewist at Conscious Clothing — a sustainable, handmade clothing manufacturer in West Michigan before transitioning to Public Thread in 2019.
"I have a philosophy degree, and when I knew I wanted to get into sewing, I wanted to do it the right way," she said. "I always wanted to get into the sustainable side of it."
At the onset of the pandemic, the company produced more than 70,000 masks, which Young was an important part of.
3 days a week students gather at Public Thread headquarters to learn industrial sewing techniques on commercial sewing machines provided by GRCC.
Georgette Mfurakazi and Maggie Stafford are two students in the program.
Mfurakazi plans on using her new skills to create her own fashion line.
"I have really enjoyed learning how to sew," she commented. "I love making fashion, and I want to make women's clothing out of my home."
Stafford is transitioning into industrial sewing from the hospitality industry. Before starting the program, she had some experience in sewing. Her goal is to land a job sewing outdoor gear.
"I would like to get faster and better and make it into a career," she expressed. "I love learning how the machines work, and different industrial techniques. I love that everything is sustainable here."
Young hopes that as students leave the program to enter the industrial sewing workforce, they bring thoughtfulness to an increasingly automated field.
"My hope is that when my students enter the industry, they will be so thoughtful about how things are done so they can offer more than just operating the machine," she said.
Lisa Knight, Chief Operating Officer of Public Thread, said incorporating educational support into the operations has been a longtime goal of the company. Since 2016, the small-batch cut and sew manufacturer has been increasing the impact of its sustainable approach to production by operating with a triple bottom line: people, planet and business.
“We at Public Thread feel like every day is a success when we see these students come in the door with new excitement and a desire to create new opportunities for themselves,” Knight said. “There is no one on this side of the state doing this work and with a growing trend happening across the country, we want to stay cutting edge and be able to provide people with a much-needed skill to our community. We hope to stay a continued partner with GRCC to re-shape the face of manufacturing and workforce development.”