The Sewing Labs tapped to participate in Department of Labor Initiative

The Sewing Labs’ most recent SSTP grads with their teacher Cali: (L to R) Markeshia Rhone, Ashley Pinkston, Instructor Cali Roberta Cox, Kathy Ribblet, Natasha Gidding, and Brooklin Dingley.

Abby Hoover
Managing Editor


The Sewing Labs, a Columbus Park based nonprofit, announced the organization is to be among the initial cohort of Apprenticeship Ambassadors for an initiative recently announced by the White House.


“We are thrilled to be named Apprenticeship Ambassadors and believe we are the only organization that is promoting pathways through the skilled trade of sewing,” said Eileen Bobowski, Executive Director of The Sewing Labs.


Last week the White House launched the Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative to create equitable, debt-free pathways to high-paying jobs. Those named have committed to hosting 3,367 outreach and recruitment activities, 892 training sessions and 717 promotional meetings. They have also pledged to develop 460 new Registered Apprenticeship programs and 387 resources in their first year as ambassadors. The department continues to accept and review applications.


The Department of Labor has selected 207 officials and organizations to serve as the initial cohort of Apprenticeship Ambassadors, who will share their experiences and champion apprenticeship opportunities. About 93 percent of workers who complete Registered Apprenticeships gain employment and earn an annual average starting wage of $77,000.


Registered Apprenticeship is a high-quality, debt-free, equitable “earn and learn” model with a nationally recognized credential system that helps employers hire a more demographically diverse workforce and provides workers with on-the-job learning experience, job-related instruction with a mentor, and a clear pathway to a good-paying job.


“A year ago we entered into an agreement with the U.S. and Missouri Department of Labor – and we’re working on Kansas now, too – to officially offer industrial sewing machine operator training,” Bobowski said. “The reason that we did this is because we’re so flooded with employers seeking to hire and it’s an in-demand role. Why not give some more credit to the students who are coming through that program and to our organization?”


After completing the 30-week training, students move on to a paid apprenticeship that’s looking to hire. After they finish their apprenticeships, they receive an official Department of Labor certification, which will boost their credibility when looking for employment.


The Sewing Labs’ students have moved on to stitch at Sandlot Goods, a locally-owned manufacturer, Sealy Mattress Company, Weave Gotcha Covered! and others both locally and as far as South Korea. Since 2020, they have trained 18 students, have nine in apprenticeships, and have eight currently training.


“When I think about women in the industry, especially when I think about the underserved, you can go through this program, you can land a job part-time working for someone, but then you can also have your own entrepreneurial business where you can have your kids by your side and you’re sitting in your living room,” Bobowksi said, adding that they focus on helping their students achieve financial dignity.


The inaugural group of Apprenticeship Ambassadors consists of diverse partners from multiple industries who have demonstrated a willingness to use their Registered Apprenticeship experience and expertise to promote and expand these programs across all industries, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The cohort is comprised of community-based organizations, educators, employers, equity partners, industry associations, labor organizations, state organizations, program sponsors and workforce partners.


“I think we’re the only sewing organization from what we can tell, and that lines up perfectly with what we’re trying to do, to raise awareness about just how critical this industry is, not just for clothing, there’s so many things that are sewn products,” Bobowski said.


The Sewing Labs is a welcoming and inclusive community teaching the legacy of sewing for employment, entrepreneurship, and enrichment. Flooded with employers and entrepreneurs seeking to hire trained stitchers, they are currently seeking students for their next Sewing Salon Training Program which starts October 3. “The ultimate goal is to create that constant pipeline of stitchers so that these employers are getting people that ,once they complete their apprenticeship, they want to keep them employed for years and years,” Bobowski said.


For additional information, contact Operations@thesewinglabs.community.

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