3 minute read

Apparel Workers Job Description, Career as an Apparel Workers, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training None

Salary Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Apparel workers cut and sew fabric and other materials into clothing. Most apparel workers work in textile manufacturing plants. These workers perform one task in the production of many garments, rather than performing all the tasks required to produce a piece of clothing.

There are many steps in making a piece of clothing. Patternmakers are skilled workers who convert a designer's model of a piece of clothing into a set of patterns used to cut the garment from fabric. Patternmakers usually use a computer to outline the parts and produce garments of various sizes. Cutters and trimmers use the patterns to cut out the material. Cutting is done with an electric knife; delicate materials may be cut by hand with scissors. Some manufacturing plants use automated machinery for cutting. Sewing machine operators join the fabric pieces of a garment together and attach buttons, zippers, and decorations. Other workers may inspect the clothing, remove lint, or package it for sale.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no set education requirements for apparel workers. However, most employers prefer to hire high school graduates, and workers with previous work experience or vocational training are preferred. Entry-level positions require the ability to work quickly and accurately. Workers must have manual dexterity, good hand-eye coordination, and the ability to perform repetitive tasks. Most

The apparel industry employs a wide variety of workers unique to clothing manufacturing, such as fashion designers, pattern makers, cutters, sewing machine operators, and finish pressers. (© Sie Productions/zefa/Corbis.)

workers begin with simple tasks and advance to more difficult positions as they gain experience.

Getting the Job

Applicants can apply directly to factories for a job as an apparel worker. Factories often list their job openings on signs outside the plant. State employment offices and classified newspaper advertisements also list job openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

With experience, apparel workers can move into jobs that involve more skill. Those with some vocational training may advance into supervisory positions.

Job openings for apparel workers are expected to decline through 2014 for a number of reasons. More manufactured goods are being assembled outside the United States, and the U.S. textile industry has been particularly hard hit. Sewing machine operator jobs are particularly vulnerable to being lost abroad, but many cutters and patternmakers should still be employed domestically.

Working Conditions

Most apparel workers work a forty-hour workweek; however, many must work rotating shifts. Piecework systems allow for little contact with other employees. Textile mills are often noisy, cluttered, hot, and poorly lit, although some more modern facilities are well lit and ventilated. Workers must be careful not to catch clothing, jewelry, or hair in fast-moving machinery. Some workers develop repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Where to Go for More Information

American Textile Manufacturers Institute
1130 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036-3954
(202) 862-0500

275 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10001-6708
(212) 265-7000

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings in the apparel industry vary by occupation. Piece-workers are paid by the number of acceptable pieces they produce. What they earn varies according to their skill, speed, and accuracy, as well as how often the piece they are working on changes and a new product is needed. In May 2004 patternmakers earned a median hourly wage of $13.85. Cutters earned a median hourly wage of $9.80. Sewing machine operators earned a median hourly wage of $8.61. Some apparel workers belong to labor unions, like UNITE HERE! Benefits vary, but may include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, pension plans, and childcare.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production