NEW TECHNOLOGY CENTER MAY SET TRAINING PACE

Byline: Marilyn Nason

ASHEBORO, N.C. — The new 5,000-square-foot hosiery technology center at Randolph Community College marks a major step for the industry and could prove to be a model plan for a statewide job training program.
The center is a first-time joint venture between two North Carolina schools — Randolph and Catawba Valley Community College. CVCC also has a 12,000-square-foot hosiery technology center on its Hickory campus to improve the development, education and intensive work force training for sock manufacturing. This facility opened in 1990 and will continue to serve the Hickory area with technology for socks. While the new Asheboro center will provide training for sock manufacturing, it will focus on the production of sheers.
Dan St. Louis, who has been directing the Hickory hosiery technology center since its inception, will also serve as managing director of the new Asheboro facility. He will continue to be based in Hickory.
The hosiery industry’s participation and the opening of the Randolph Community College technology facilities are concrete initial steps in the state’s plan to improve job training and develop strategies in competitive technologies, according to Jane Smith Patterson, budget adviser to Gov. James B. Hunt.
North Carolina employs 38,000 people in hosiery production and accounts for 60 percent of the hosiery produced in the U.S. The new technology center will offer work force training to the 11,000 people who are already employed in the hosiery industry in the school’s area plus potential employees.
The establishment of these two centers and the extensive contributions and commitments of hosiery manufacturers reflects the willingness of the industry and the CHA “to be pro-active in the area of work force training,” Patterson said at the recent grand opening ceremonies.
Patterson, who also serves as the vice chairman of the state’s Alliance for Competitive Technologies, told the approximately 150 hosiery industry and government leaders in attendance that the industry should be lauded for “walking the talk.” “We in state government are using that same plan and will be a partner with you in its implementation,” she said.
Six equipment distributors — Pam Trading of Greensboro, Paramount Crawford of Kernersville, Henderson Machinery of High Point, and Charlotte firms Speizman Industries, Artex Corp. and Martint Corp. — donated $350,000 worth of machinery. Suppliers of other goods contributed about $10,000 worth of yarn and flat parts, such as needles. Frank Papa, vice president of manufacturing for Kayser-Roth Corp., said the facility will be a substantial help to the industry in its competitive efforts in employee retention, and help shorten the critical training cycle for new personnel. In 1995, the turnover rate among knitting employees in hosiery factories was 60 percent, he noted.
Darrell Frye, controller of Harris Covington Hosiery and chairman of the Piedmont Triad Business Partnership, said the opening reflected the changing face of the hosiery industry.
“Our industry once was looked upon as a polluter of the environment; now we are looked upon as the protector,” Frye said. “Once we were looked upon as labor-intensive; now we are technology-assertive. The technology center will move us forward in the next century.”

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