Researchers at East Carolina University, Virginia Tech and Auburn University conducted a survey of personnel managers from 34 U.S. textile and apparel manufacturers in 15 states to learn about their training programs for expatriate employees (those sent to work in another country for at least six months).
They found that more than half of training programs lasted less than six weeks, 31.6 percent lasted between six weeks and three months, and 15.8 percent lasted from three months to six months. Twenty-five percent said they used specialized, intensive training from outside firms. Of the personnel managers, 29 percent said their training programs were highly important, 43 percent said the programs were of medium importance, and 29 percent said the programs were of low importance.
The most commonly used type of training offered by employers was language training, used by 59 percent of respondents. Other types of training included: area studies (27.3 percent), cultural assimilation (22.7 percent), sensitivity training (18.2 percent) and field experience (18.2 percent). Although most respondents indicated that each type of training was important, the majority of firms did not provide training in every area.
In their conclusions, the researchers recommended that companies provide a comprehensive training program for expatriates consisting of more than language training, and that companies should work to develop an organized training model.
Source: Woodard, G., Kincade, D.H., & Owens, S. (2002). Training of expatriates in the textile and apparel industries. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 20(4), 227-237.)
After surveying 37 Michigan textile and apparel firms, a trio of Michigan State University (MSU) researchers identified the following areas (in order of importance) in which the companies need help: locating sources of consistent quality textile inputs; matching product uniqueness with appropriate target markets; optimizing functional roles in a small firm; organizing and training effective teams; keeping abreast of new developments in the industry; developing a Web site to promote the company and products; extending product sales into new U.S. markets; increasing export sales; and attracting and training qualified workers.
Respondents also revealed that the most frequent form of technology they used in their business was e-mail, followed by computerized inventory tracking, Web sites, CAD, EDI, automated cutting equipment, CAM, e-commerce and robotics.
The researchers determined that MSU and other Michigan universities could work cooperatively with local manufacturers to help them address their top needs.
Source: Lee, Y-A., Sontag, M.S. & Slocum, A.C. (2002). Michigan apparel and textile manufacturing industry: Characterization and needs assessment, Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management, 2(3). Available online from: www.tx.ncsu.edu/jtatm/.
DR. LORYNN DIVITA is an assistant professor of fashion merchandising at Baylor University.