The textile, apparel, and furnishings manufacturing industry is a growing field. It appeals to non-degreed workers who may or may not have a high school diploma. Workers typically receive an hourly rate for tasks that include patternmaking, sewing, cutting, machine operating, upholstering, and tailoring. Workers gain experience through on-the-job training and they typically train new employees. They have a working knowledge of both the pre-production and textile process.
Textile, apparel, and furnishings workers receive low wages as entry-level employees; but wages increase as skill sets increase. They have a background in fabric production and they may advance as supervisors within the industry. Employees with an advanced education beyond high school may also advance to factory management positions within different departments. Workers who learn tailoring techniques are more likely to earn higher than hand sewers. In addition, workers who learn the techniques of patternmaking are more likely to earn significantly more than tailors. As the industry continues to integrate patternmaking technology, there will be greater opportunities for textile, apparel, and furnishings workers to advance.
The specific salary for textile, apparel, and furnishings workers is determined by a number of factors. Workers typically are not required to have a bachelor’s degree. Their pay is determined by skill, accuracy, and speed; pay is also determined by the number of finished and marketable pieces.
Other factors come into play. Some entry-level workers are not qualified to be sewers and patternmakers. They begin their careers in the textile and apparel industry as laundry workers; they receive an hourly wage of $9.14. They earn a penny less than workers who are textile and garment pressers who earn $9.15. Hand sewers and sewing machine operators earn distinctly less; the former earn $10.58 and the latter earn $9.55. However, hand sewers earn less than textile cutters operating a machine; they earn $10.88. All other textile, apparel, and furnishings workers earn significantly more than their counterparts, beginning with shoe workers and repairers who earn $11.00; textile bleachers and dyeing machine operators who earn $11.38; and tailors and custom sewers who earn $12.01. Tailors significantly earn more than hand sewers. In addition, textile knitters and weavers earn $12.21; upholsters earn $13.94; forming machine operators earn $14.98; and fabric patternmakers earn $18.15. Companies and factories within the industry typically offer limited benefits to employees. Workers may receive discounts on personal purchases. Most workers are a part of a union.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Textile, apparel, and furnishings workers must have a working knowledge of sewing and textile procedures. Machine workers must be knowledgeable about machine operation and how to thread cloth and fibers into the machine. Fabric sewers, cleaners, and pressers must be knowledgeable of the different stages of the textile process. Patternmakers convert the designer’s blueprint into a pattern. The pattern is cut into separate and distinct pieces. Fabric workers take the pieces and draw designs and other details using a computer and modify the fabric to make different sizes. Once the sizes are adjusted, the pattern is ready for production and the fabric is ready for processing which includes the machine press, dyeing, knitting, and weaving. Workers use various machines to accomplish these multi-functional tasks such as sewing machines and other fabric feeding machines. Workers typically perform these tasks during a forty-hour work week. They are required to stand and are subject to loud noise on a daily basis.
The career outlook is great for high school students who want to enter the field and long-term, experienced sewers. The demand and need for textile and apparel workers is expected to increase as technology is integrated more into the design, fabric sewing, and textile process. However, high turnover rates within the industry contribute to minimum wage earnings and unsatisfactory working surroundings. Workers who are not part of a union earn significantly less than their counterparts.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
The textile, apparel, and furnishings manufacturing industry does not require its workers to have a high school diploma, but workers are encouraged to complete their education before entering the industry. Nonetheless, they are hired without one. Therefore, workers are not required to complete advanced education or be certified in their field. Recent graduates of vocational programs or experienced sewers entering the textile, apparel, and furnishings industry must have some experience working with patternmaking, sewing, designing, and operating a machine. Workers typically learn their skills and more advanced supervisor management skills through on-the-job training. Without sewing and tailoring skills, they begin as support staff (i.e., laundry workers). Most sewers, dressmakers, and tailors have long-term experience in the industry. These workers have completed post-high school coursework through enrollment in community colleges or vocational programs.
Textile, apparel, and furnishings workers are not required to be certified in their field. Workers tend to learn most of their skills through vocational studies and on-the-job training. Workers with more experience train entry-level employees. Factories promote textile, apparel, and furnishings workers through an job evaluation system in which workers assume lead responsibilities due to their job performance and good reviews. For most non-supervisory, executive management positions, advanced education and long-term experience is required.
Textile, apparel, and furnishings workers and executive personnel may pursue membership with The International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA). The ITAA is a global, membership organization that accepts textile, apparel, and furnishings workers from both national and international countries. The association establishes standards and monitors member professional organizations. Members enjoy such benefits as networking seminars and continuing education opportunities. Through conference events and seminars, members learn more about the industry and propose new standards to make it more efficient. One of the subjects that is of primary concern today for the association is centered on long-term planning of technology integration into the textile, apparel, and furnishings industry.
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