GRCC launches industrial sewing certificate program

Lisa Knight’s company creates unique products by “upcycling” used materials, but the skills needed to create them are in great demand from a variety of local industries.
Grand Rapids Community College is teaming up with Knight’s company, Public Thread, to create an industrial sewing certificate program to help students gain in-demand skills.

The pilot program, which starts Oct. 26, trains people to operate the commercial sewing machines used in a variety of West Michigan industries, including automotive and furniture manufacturers. Average starting wages are between $17 and $23 per hour with full-time benefits.

“The new industrial sewing program is an example of how the community college partners with local employers to identify needs, then trains people to have skills leading to rewarding careers right here in West Michigan,” says Julie Parks, interim dean of GRCC’s School of Workforce Development. “Building a talented workforce creates opportunities for residents and strengthens our economy.”

Sewing lab

Public Thread designs and creates products from surplus and scrap textiles obtained through partnerships with local manufacturers and suppliers, such as the furniture and billboard industries. Products include duffel bags, laptop sleeves, clothing, and even pet supplies. It has created more than 70,000 face coverings. 

The company, at 1405 Buchanan Ave. SW, has a newly equipped sewing lab that will be used for the classes.

Students will learn the basics with an introduction to the sewing process, safety and ergonomics, sewing math, and sewing equipment and operation.

The cost is $100 for Grand Rapids residents and $500 for those living outside the city. A portion of the program’s cost is being paid for by the One Workforce for West Michigan Manufacturing grant.

Zero waste

Knight, Public Thread’s CEO, says the company focuses on creating opportunities for local residents as well as helping combat climate change.

“There are many textiles and materials out there in our community already,” she says. “We were thinking about sustainability and zero waste and looked at the problem with a creative mindset.”

Public Thread’s products are sold online at

People interested in the class can contact GRCC Workforce Training via email at [email protected], and by phone at 616-234-3800.

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