GRCC receives grant for new industrial sewing course



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications


Dec. 19, 2014 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. In response to workforce demands — and with funding help from global financial services firm JP Morgan Chase & Co. — Grand Rapids Community College now offers an industrial sewing course that costs students just $35.

Creating GRCC’s newest offering was a community project in the broadest sense: Planning started two months ago when economic development agencies The Right Place and Lakeshore Advantage joined 10 area employers in requesting an industrial sewing program.

Companies nationwide are struggling to rebuild the industrial sewing workforce after jobs went overseas in the 1990s (click here to learn more). GRCC’s program is only the second in Michigan.

“Because of production problems overseas, difficulty in communicating with other countries, and a growing U.S. manufacturing industry, we have an opportunity here in Michigan,” said Julie Parks, director of GRCC Workforce Training and the Tassell M-TEC facility. “We were excited to see what we might do.”

Steepletown Neighborhood Services and Blue Marble Threads provided machines and helped develop the curriculum, allowing GRCC to pilot the course during fall 2014 with five students.

“Area employers have so many job openings that they urged us to get the course under way as soon as possible,” Parks said. “Our partnership with Steepletown and Blue Marble allowed us to do just that.”

A $30,000 grant from JP Morgan will allow GRCC to expand the course with the purchase of two or three more industrial sewing machines.

“We are so grateful to JP Morgan for choosing to support this program,” Parks said. “In addition to providing more machines, this grant means that students enrolling in the next session will pay just $35!”

Students will learn industry-specific math and measuring, about sewing and the production process, safety, and equipment operation. A National Career Readiness Certificate of bronze or higher is required to enter the program. The next session of the course starts Jan. 27; to register, click here.

“We already have over 20 job openings for students who successfully complete the 120-hour course,” Parks said. “We expect that to grow considerably in 2015. Pay ranges from $9 to $21 an hour, and most jobs include medical benefits.”

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, as well as at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.