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The sewing industry has been gutted since 1990, with 77 percent of jobs axed as companies find cheaper labor outside the United States. But with some high-profile factory tragedies abroad and Americans increasingly wanting to buy products made domestically, factory jobs are returning stateside, the New York Times reported last month.
The issue is finding qualified sewers. Though unemployment continues to be stubbornly high, few have the skill set needed to handle industrial level sewing machines.
"The sad truth is, we put ads in the paper and not many people show up," Mike Miller, a chief executive in the industrial sewing industry, told the Times.
Miller's company, Airtex, has tried to build a workforce from scratch, recruiting, then training, and finally hiring workers in the Minneapolis area. Local charities helped pay for the tuition for the training, over $3,000 for the six month program. Of the 18 students in the inaugural class, nine graduated and eight got jobs.
The median annual salary for a sewing machine operator is $22,560 and many positions receive benefits, according to PayScale.
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