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The Link Report Focuses On The Future

ATI Special Report

D uring 1996 the N.C. Textile Foundation funded a study of changes in the industry and their potential impact on the College of Textiles. The study was conducted by Jerome Link, a retired Celanese executive with significant national and international experience.

A few highlights of the report summarize many of the challenges that lie ahead:

“Neither technology nor capital investments in equipment appear to offer an alternative in the midterm, less than 10 years, to offset low labor cost sources for apparel assembly,” the report said. “Thus, both U.S. and foreign apparel manufacturers will continue to develop and refine their international sourcing strategies to embrace efficient offshore production and distribution. Large U.S. apparel manufacturers are also continuing to close domestically owned plants. Continuing to supply these manufacturers will be difficult for the U.S. mills, but many are prepared to try.”

Professional Requirements

To meet the demands of this global business environment, industry requirements for their professional employees are changing.

Current competence was considered most satisfactory in technical and computer skills, but more attention was encouraged in “soft core” areas: communication skills, foreign cultural and language knowledge, basic economic evaluation techniques and some finance fundamentals.

A faculty committee developed a three-pronged approach for College of Textiles students: academic knowledge, professional knowledge and personal skills.

Academic knowledge represented by traditional college curricula. Fundamental science, technology, and liberal arts make up the majority of courses.

Traditionally, professional knowledge has been acquired through experience over a long period of time. This area needs to be strengthened if graduates are to be ready to make immediate contributions to their employers.

Personal skills are essential for continued growth and making effective contributions to the industry and society. These skills are learned through on-the-job trial and error and mentoring. Some of these skills can be taught in the traditional academic framework, however they must be reinforced through experience.

Finding The Mechanisms

The mechanisms used to accomplish these goals have not, as yet, been clearly defined. It is clear, however, that non-traditional modes of student/faculty interactions will be essential if the university is to meet the needs expressed by industry.

There is also a second opportunity percolating within the college — the need for a curriculum component in “Strategic and Global Textile Operations.”

Topics to be considered include: international trade, procurement sourcing, distribution, inventory control, forecasting, product development and an integrating mechanism of information technology.

January 1999



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