A group of us noticed that no mentor or internship programs existed for local students to learn our local industry. We started filling up buses with students, sending them to local businesses and manufacturing facilities to expose them to these available career pathways.
growth in demand for textile workers
The Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) projected that with developments in the smart and interactive fabrics market, the industry would grow to 3.1 billion workers this year, representing a growth rate of 18 percent a year. While this may seem like rapid growth, experts say that this growth is not enough to support demand.
Coated Technical Solutions (CTS) and others in the international advanced textiles and specialty fabrics marketplace are seeking solutions that will feed the pipeline of workers needed to drive the smart fabrics market into the future.
CTS has partnered with the Rhode Island Department of Education and other local nonprofit organizations to support a program called FabNewport, which gives students as young as third grade access to learn in-demand skills as basic as sewing and as advanced as integrating interactive capabilities into fabric products using coding and electronics.
With a tagline of “Make, Learn, Do,” this community-based program provides alternative pathways to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) education through expert mentoring and hands-on activities. With a schedule flexible enough to accommodate all ages of learners, this Rhode Island community is building technical skills and talent for an under-supplied smart fabric industry, while cultivating the personal attributes required for success in life, like grit, self control, empathy, problem solving, and resilience.
Did you know?
From the early 1800’s to the Great Depression of the 1930’s, textile mills dominated the Rhode Island urban landscape. Rhode Island and Massachusetts in particular had conditions ideal for the textile industry’s development – a growing society looking to diversify and find new investments, and a good supply of the water courses needed in those early days to power the mills.
Though the textile industry in Rhode Island has changed, it continues to be a driving industrial force with major economic impact. A pioneer in the fabric industry from the days of the Industrial Revolution, Rhode Island is now home to approximately 60 companies that produce technologically advanced textiles which are used in diverse applications, including the military.
attend FabNewport programs weekly throughout the school year
are offered for students age 10-15 for school credit, with family programs on Friday evenings
Rhode Island students have completed FabNewport programs
What are the results?
FabNewport puts kids in a work-like environment. They balance skills development with project development, teaching Rhode Island youth to code, design, sew, and run advanced machinery. Students earn credentials based on their proficiency and, as they spend more time in the program, learn about career pathways critical to the local economy.
The soft skills employers desire are organically fostered through collaborative learning environments. As students work their way from Apprentice, to Journeyer, to Mastery, some of their effort goes into teaching their newly developed skills to others. Students refine their knowledge around the skill and become empathetic communicators and coaches, which in turn grows confidence.