The newly formed Nashville Fashion Alliance cut the ribbon today on a new training program, meant to rebuild the number of skilled garment workers. But the classes have a double purpose: They're operated by Catholic Charities and intended to help immigrants and refugees find work.
Ten students at a time will take the three-week course, tucked into the back corner of a warehouse on the East Bank of the Cumberland River. The first group mostly consists of women who've come to the U.S. from Africa and Asia. Most aren't yet comfortable speaking English.
Teacher Trishawna Quincy says the language barrier isn't a problem. "Sewing is a very visual thing," she says. "I can teach them a lot just by showing them what to do."
For some, the classes mean learning a brand new skill. For Angie Bofaka, it's a chance to resume work she'd only just begun when she fled the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There, Bofaka had taken some classes and started to do some sweing work. But the equipment she used in Congo was powered by pedals and cranks; she's excited to learn to use electric sewing machines.
She'll be taking the class along with her mother. They'll both earn minimum wage as they go through the course. After that, they'll be ready to take jobs at the new Omega Apparel factory in Nashville, which serves as a production line for local designers.