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Occupations in the Industry
The textile and apparel industries offer employment opportunities in a variety of occupations, but production occupations accounted for 66 percent of all jobs; many of which are unique to the industry (table 2). Additional jobs found at the headquarters of some of these textile and apparel companies are generally classified in a separate industry.
Production occupations. As in most manufacturing industries, the process of creating finished products is broken into a number of steps. Workers in these industries usually repeat a small part of the manufacturing process, using tools and machines where needed. This allows manufacturers to create textile products from raw materials quickly and efficiently.
Fabric and apparel patternmakers convert clothing designers’ original models of garments into separate parts that can be produced in mass quantities. They use computers to lay out the parts and draw in details to indicate the position of pleats, buttonholes, and other features, making adjustments as needed for different sizes.
Extruding or forming machine operators set up and operate machines that extrude or force liquid synthetic material, such as rayon, fiberglass, or liquid polymers through small holes and draw out filaments. Other operators put natural fibers, such as cotton or wool, through carding and combing machines that clean and align them into short lengths. Textile winding, twisting, and drawing-out machine operators make yarn from this material, taking care to repair any breaks. Textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators control machines that wash, bleach, and dye yarn or finished fabrics. Textile knitting and weaving machine operators place the yarn on machines that weave, knit, loop, or tuft it.
Textile cutting machine setters, operators, and tenders use patterns to prepare the pieces from which finished apparel will be made. Sewing machine operators join these pieces together, reinforce seams, and attach buttons, hooks, zippers, and accessories. In some cases, hand sewers may be employed to do specialty work and make adjustments.
Shoe machine operators and tenders tend machines used in making footwear. They perform a variety of functions, such as cutting, joining, and finishing. Shoe and leather workers and repairers may finish work that cannot be performed by a machine. Others are employed in cobbler shops, where they repair shoes and other leather products, such as luggage.
Pressers receive a garment after it has been assembled. Pressers eliminate wrinkles and give shape to finished products. Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers inspect finished products to ensure consistency and quality.
Other occupations. Industrial machinery mechanics inspect machines to make sure they are working properly. They clean, oil, and grease parts and tighten belts on a regular basis. When necessary, they make adjustments or replace worn parts and put the equipment back together. Mechanics are under pressure to fix equipment quickly because breakdowns usually stop or slow production. In addition to making repairs, mechanics help install new machines. They may enter instructions for computer-controlled machinery and demonstrate the equipment to machine operators. Engineers and engineering technicians account for less than 1 percent of employment in these industries. Some engineers are textile engineers, who specialize in the design of textile machinery or new textile production methods, or the study of fibers. The industries also employ other types of engineers, particularly industrial and mechanical engineers.
Fashion designers are the artists of the apparel industry. They create ideas for a range of products including coats, suits, dresses, hats, and underwear. Fashion designers begin the process by making rough sketches of garments or accessories, often using computer-assisted design (CAD) software. This software prints detailed designs from a computer drawing. It can also store fashion styles and colors that can be accessed and easily changed. Designers then create the pattern pieces that will be used to construct the finished garment. They measure and draw pattern pieces to actual size on paper. Then, they use these pieces to measure and cut pattern pieces in a sample fabric. Designers sew the pieces together and fit them on a model. They examine the sample garment and make changes until they get the effect they want. Some designers use assistants to cut and sew pattern pieces to their specifications.