Greenville County Schools Partners with Textile Industry
Fiber Arts Program to Train New Creative Workforce
Greenville County Schools has unveiled a first of its kind industry supported Fiber Arts Curriculum for high school design students. Five South Carolina textile manufacturers have made a significant investment in the Fine Arts Center Program. Sage Automotive, Inman Mills, Springs Creative, Alice Manufacturing and Glen Raven have also committed to mentor students and take on apprentices.
“I think that what is neat with this program is you are building the foundation for the people I will be hiring in the future. So you start with the foundation, you learn how to design, you learn about the textile industry, so when I am hiring new designers, you’ll have that foundation here and that is not going away anytime soon,” said Kathy Phillips of Springs Creative.
“We talk about the terms of connecting the old and maintaining the roots of what was an important part of this state but having the bridge that brings it to the new part. Textiles is modern, it is happening, it is progressive and it makes a big difference. We want to connect the education community to that because it is such a part of the heritage of this state,” said Dirk Pieper, CEO of Sage Automotive.
Twenty-four students have been accepted in the inaugural class. “It is very practical knowledge, I think everyone should have the opportunity to weave cloth, so many of us wear clothing and don’t know how were these clothes made, what is this fabric made of, is it a knit or a woven? I think to gain this knowledge at a high school level is really fantastic,” said instructor April Dauscha.
The curriculum was built in collaboration with North Carolina State University, the leading Textile College in the nation. “It is a vital part of our economy, but it is also a vital part of our lives, you try to get dressed in the morning, come to work, you are always going to be in an environment where you are touching textiles and textiles are touching you,” said NC State Professor Nancy Powell.
Upstate textile companies are facing a “silver tsunami.” Many of their employees are nearing retirement age. Their investment will train the workforce of the future.
“Fifty years ago in the textile industry an individual might be hired for their hands. In old terminology you could ask a plant manager how many associates do you have, how many hands do you have in your plant? To be candid, we don’t look at it that way anymore. We look at how many minds we employ, the human mind and the creativity of our workforce,” said Randy Blackston, VP of Glen Raven.
The concept for the fiber arts program originated with Fine Arts Center Director Roy Fluhrer. “Here we are, an arts school with a record of excellence and innovation, in one of the nation's historical centers for fiber and textiles and, yet, lacking a presence in the development of the next generation of design artists who can build their futures in our state while, at the same time, strengthening the industry and our state's economy,” Fluhrer said.