The Northeast Iowa Community College instructor, Barb Brockett, teaches an Industrial Sewing course at the Town Clock Business Center, three nights per week, through NICC Business and Community Solutions. The course Brockett teaches is part of the College’s Industrial Sewing – Career Pathway Certificate program that was developed in response to businesses with skilled workforce needs.
Northeast Iowa Community College’s Industrial Sewing program provides an overview of the manufacturing process, including its terminology, techniques, and systems from product concept stage to completion. Students are introduced to basic spec and tape measure reading, understanding safety, and learning ergonomic principles to create a safe work environment. General industrial sewing machine operation and maintenance instruction is covered and continually practiced, building skills throughout the program.
Brockett’s mix of students is a strong indicator of the state of cut-and-sew positions across the U.S. manufacturing sector. According to industry statistics, increasing competition from overseas operations has resulted in a massive shed of American sewers over the last decade. Since 2008, the nation has experienced a nearly 42% decline in employment across the industry.
The skilled labor puzzle still faces challenges, especially for manufacturers like Flexsteel in Dubuque, that specializes in upholstered seating. NICC and Flexsteel partnered several years ago to develop the certificate program and provide instructional equipment for students.
Brockett feels this partnership is vital because students learn and train on actual equipment and materials they would be using in the manufacturing environment.