Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and Public Thread have partnered to launch GRCC's Industrial Sewing Certificate Program.
The first cohort begins on Oct. 26 and runs through Feb. 24, 2022. Students walk away with certification as skilled industrial sewers, able to enter the sewn-product industry with wages starting from $17-$23. The cost for the program is $100 for Grand Rapids residents and $500 for non-residents. A portion of the cost of this program is being paid for by the One Workforce for West Michigan Manufacturing grant.
Lisa Knight, Chief Operating Officer of Public Thread, said the partnership is 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.
"This partnership allows us to continue to not only do the work internally of upcycling materials but allows us to train people who may have an interest in shifting their employment or career choices and become a pipeline between them and local manufacturers for employment," Knight commented.
The partnership is part of the GRCC's Workforce Training, a program that provides relevant and responsive training to create opportunities for students and meet workforce demand.
"GRCC has always served the business community and the non-traditional students, we have always offered alternative pathways to different careers," Elly Bainbridge, program manager, communications and outreach at GRCC.
For the Industrial Sewing Program, GRCC provides the high-tech industrial sewing machines and the students, Public Thread provides the space and instructors.
Bainbridge emphasizes that partnerships such as these are essential for workforce development.
"The environment at Public Thread is so great because you are surrounded by others who are doing it for their career path," Bainbridge said. "This partnership is particularly driven by employers, we like to make sure that whatever training we are supporting or promoting, will get someone a job right away."
The collaboration comes at a historical point for the workforce; more Americans than ever are leaving their careers in search of fulfilling, higher-paying careers.
"Over this last year, a lot of people really stepped back from what they were doing and got really thoughtful about how they wanted their future to look," Knight said.
She went on to say that the program also helps Public Thread in its initiative to support local designers who may want to bring a textile product to market but don't quite know how to do it yet.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to come alongside them and help them walk through it, even as we are learning and growing," Knight expressed. "It allows us to share that information so people don't have to struggle."