* * * This is NOT a job offer * * *|
The purpose of this occupational guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.
If you are searching for a job, please go to
More Occupational Guides
TRENDS The number of jobs in the U.S. clothing industry has gone down because most of the clothes sold here are made in other countries. In order to compete, U.S. clothing makers, especially in California, have cut costs to keep up with the demand for cheaper clothes. U.S. manufacturers have lowered costs by using assembly plants in other countries. This lowers employer wage costs but reduces employment in this country. With the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in place, more and more businesses will use foreign assembly plants. As a result, job growth for Sewing Machine Operators will be limited. THE JOB SEWING MACHINE OPERATORS run high speed electric sewing machines to make clothing and other cloth pieces. Operators use commercial machines that are heavier and run faster than machines used in the home. Sewing Machine Operators are generally classified by the type of sewing machine they use, such as single needle, multineedle, double needle, overlock, or blind stitch, and by the type of work they do, such as collar stitcher, sleeve finisher, or pocket setter. Most operators run a regular machine that sews pieces of cloth together in a seam. Operators usually start on single needle machines that have one needle and make a stitch like those made by home machines. Operators position pieces of cloth together and hold them so that when the needle connects the pieces the stitch made is straight and smooth. They also can start and stop the machine smoothly when running it at high speeds. Most Sewing Machine Operators work in the clothing industry. They usually work on a part or section of clothing. An operator who is good at simple sections may go on to harder jobs like setting collars and cuffs, which may need double needle machines. Operators who know all the sections may work as "utility workers" and fill in wherever they may be needed. Skilled operators can do most sewing jobs in the factory or shop and change over easily when production runs are changed to a new style or different clothes. Most of their time is spent correctly matching the pieces of cloth before sewing them. Operators have to work fast and carefully because they are paid the regular going rate for work done correctly. They are paid minimum wage when fixing pieces that weren't done correctly. WORKING CONDITIONS While many shops are in old uncomfortable buildings, others are in modern buildings that have big workrooms, good ventilation and lighting, and air conditioning. Most employees sit when they sew, but the work can be tiring depending on the weight of the fabric and depending on what they are making. The work is done fast and many chores are boring. Operators work alone, but very near fellow workers. The material to be sewn is brought to them and put in baskets or separate piles so each piece can be reached while sitting at the machine. This process makes for smooth and efficient operations. Operators have to do some lifting. The machines are worked by foot pedals and knee levers. Certain kinds of foot and leg ailments are not a handicap for this work. However, Sewing Machine Operators must have full and free use of their hands and arms, and they must be able to see well with or without glasses. Many shops are not unionized, but some have contracts with the International Ladies Garment Workers of America or the Amalgamated Garment Workers of America. EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK The California Projections of Employment, published by the Labor Market Information Division of the Employment Development Department, estimates that the total number of Sewing Machine Operators (Garment) and Sewing Machine Operators (Non-Garment) in California will reach 97,290 by 2005, an increase in new jobs of 15,910 over the number there was in 1993. There will also be an estimated 17,280 job openings due to people retiring or leaving the occupation. Added to the 15,910 new jobs expected, this makes for an estimated total of 33,190 job opportunities through 2005. (These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.) A growing population will demand more clothes, but foreign assembly plants will continue to keep employment down. There also are new machines that cut down on the number of employees needed to get the work done. Examples of labor saving equipment include sewing machines that can position needles and trim threads automatically and devices that automatically position fabric pieces under the needle and remove and stack completed pieces. WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS Inexperienced Sewing Machine Operators earn between minimum wage and $7.50 per hour. Those with at least one year of experience can make from the minimum to $8.00 hourly, and those with three years on the job earn up to $12.00 an hour. Union wages are higher than nonunion. Full-time work ranges from 35 to 40 hours per week. Benefits can include paid holidays, vacations, health and life insurance, and child care. ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING Education is not needed to be hired as a Sewing Machine Operator; neither is the ability to speak English. Some employers prefer persons who have experience or training on power sewing machines. Training is offered at many community adult schools, regional occupational centers, or trade schools. Sewing Machine Operators are usually trained on the job under the supervision of a foreperson or an experienced worker. A beginner may be assigned to work automatic machines to develop the right moves and timing. The length of time required to achieve a good speed and a decent quality of production depends on individual ability. ADVANCEMENT Operators who know all the sections and have mastered the skill of sewing the whole article of clothing may become sample makers, instructors, or forepersons. These workers get an hourly or weekly salary that is a little above the earnings of piecework operators, but they are free from the pressures of piecework, and they usually have steady work during the slack seasons, as well as in busy times. FINDING THE JOB Job hunters should apply directly to employers, look at the classified ads of the newspaper, or register with Workforce Services Offices of the California Employment Development Department. ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION California Joint Board of Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Unions 2501 South Hill Street Los Angeles, CA 90007 Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Unions 15 Union Square West New York, NY 10019 (212) 242-0700 International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union 400 W. 9th Street Los Angeles, CA 90015 American Apparel Manufacturers Association 2500 Wilson Blvd., Suite 301 Arlington, VA 22201 (703) 524-1864 RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES Upholsterers No. 36 Drapery Occupations No. 91 Fashion Designers No. 185 OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev.1 ) Sewing-Machine Operator 787.682-046 OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Sewing Machine Operators (garment) 927170 Sewing Machine Operators (non-garment) 927210 Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.Note: This is NOT a job opening. The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions. If you are searching for a job, go to:
California Occupational Guides
California Employment Development Department >> Labor Market Information >> More Occupational Guides