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NC State Wilson College of Textiles to Create First of Its Kind Textile Training and Education Program in Honduras

Dean David Hinks and other signers of the Honduras MOU

By Melissa Sharp

North Carolina State University’s Wilson College of Textiles has been awarded a $2M, two year grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a technical textile training program, titled Hilando Oportunidades (Spinning Opportunities) in northern Honduras. USAID, through Hilando Oportunidades, is transforming the lives of Honduras’ youth by providing skills and training for careers in the textile industry. 

Hilando Oportunidades forges a unique partnership between three North Carolina higher education institutions – Wilson College, Gaston College and Catawba Valley Community College – that are nationally recognized for their leadership in textiles innovation, research and education from the historic and current seat of the textile industry in North America, and the Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana (UNITEC), a leader in providing technical and engineering education in Honduras. Education technology partner Shimmy, an industrial startup that provides training through mobile applications, brings an innovative training platform and a proven track record in delivering effective app-based training in challenging environments to the team. 

Wilson College of Textiles Dean David Hinks says, “Through Hilando Oportunidades, Wilson College and our partners have the rare opportunity to transform the lives of thousands of Hondurans by providing pathways to better employment and brighter futures while simultaneously enabling a sustainable regional textile supply chain with key allies that also drives economic prosperity here in North Carolina.” 

The project, led by Melissa Sharp, associate director of Zeis Textiles Extension (ZTE) in Wilson College, will deliver training to at least 1,500 Hondurans in yarn spinning, knitting, dyeing and finishing, and apparel production. Sharp says a key aspect of the program is the development of trackable credentials that will empower workers in Honduras’ textile industry and expand the routes to advancement. Credentials will be issued through Credly and maintained by NC State, providing third-party evidence of skills and training attained through Hilando Oportunidades.

Dr. Andre West, ZTE director, believes the project will have lasting impacts beyond direct employment. “As we continue to establish training and academic programs in Honduras,” says West, “we are also building the local body of knowledge which creates an ecosystem where entrepreneurs and innovations can thrive and drive positive change in our industry.” 

The impacts of the unique partnership between Wilson College, Gaston College and Catawba Valley Community College are already significant in North Carolina, where the entities collectively provide comprehensive training and education in textiles from operators and managers, to researchers and executives. By leveraging the strengths of each organization, Hilando Oportunidades will address the employment needs across multiple sectors and job levels in the textile industry. 

Dr. John Hauser, president of Gaston College, says, “Gaston College is proud to be part of this innovative partnership. We look forward to bringing our textile expertise and knowledge to Hilando Oportunidades as we all develop education and workforce training programs that support the textile co-production between Honduras and the United States.”

Dr. Garrett Hinshaw, president of Catawba Valley Community College shares, “We at Catawba Valley Community College are grateful for the partnerships that have been established through the development of programs to empower not only the residents of North Carolina, but also citizens around the world. This unprecedented initiative will continue to expand economic opportunities at a scale that has not yet been realized.” 

Local leadership in community outreach and training delivery is essential to the long term success and sustainability of the training program. UNITEC will lead the local effort to build the training capabilities and deliver in-person training in San Pedro Sula and Choloma Cortés. 

“UNITEC is delighted that Honduras is receiving support from USAID and our partners to promote the development of skilled labor to support and strengthen the country’s textile industry,“ says UNITEC CEO Rosalpina Rodriguez. “Academic quality and social responsibility are fundamental pillars of UNITEC, and we will bring our full experience in these areas to train Hondurans with the necessary skills and knowledge to build successful careers in the textile industry.”

A major component of the program will be developed by Shimmy Technologies, who will create app-based training modules and machinery simulations to expand access to the training and increase knowledge retention for trainees. 

“We are thrilled to pioneer a transformative approach that merges new, gamified ed tech with well-established university training methods backed by unparalleled subject matter expertise,” says Sarah Krasley, Chief Executive Officer of Shimmy Technologies. “By combining these powerful forces, we are extending our reach to empower the youth of Honduras to explore and embark upon meaningful careers within the manufacturing sector,” she added.

The textile industry both in the U.S. and in Honduras will also be active participants in the program, supporting the training, hiring trainees and providing input on workforce needs. The Think HUGE Textile cluster, led by Jesus Canahuati, has understood from the beginning that significant new investments in the textile industry were coming to Honduras and the Northern Triangle and that it is of vital importance to prepare the people in the region to qualify to fill the jobs being created by this growth. This partnership among NC State University and its allied community colleges, UNITEC and the textile industry associations, supported by a grant from USAID, will address that opportunity now and for the long-term future.

Canahuati, who is also a leader in the Honduran Textile and Apparel Association expresses his “gratitude to USAID; to the North Carolina college and university network – Wilson College, Gaston College, and Catawba Valley Community College – and to UNITEC, for this powerful initiative that is key to the consolidation of the US-Central American and Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) supply chain.” Canahuati shares, “We are enthusiastic for the start of its implementation in Honduras and also look forward to its replication and expansion to other CAFTA-DR countries. Our region has a historic and unique opportunity to bring textile and apparel manufacturing back from Asia. For this purpose, the most important investment must be geared towards the training and education of our people. Better opportunities here – through skilling, reskilling and upskilling to meet the needs of a constantly evolving market – will empower us to lead in innovative, environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, allowing CAFTA DR countries to be competitive, flexible and fast to market using sustainable processes and technologies.”

Kim Glas, President and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), states, “We commend USAID for providing this critical funding to NC State Wilson College of Textiles in partnership with the other two North Carolina institutions and UNITEC. We also appreciate the support of the State Department, under the leadership of Under Secretary Jose W. Fernandez and Honduran officials who understand the importance of this significant partnership to help expand growth opportunities in the U.S. and Central American textile and apparel industries. This funding, combined with collaboration of this scale, comes at a pivotal time for the co-production chain in the CAFTA-DR region and the United States, which is experiencing significant textile and apparel investment and benefiting from the nearshoring and onshoring of production. The unique partnership demonstrates the critical need for education and training programs for the next generation of academics and textile employees to be positioned for a global sourcing paradigm shift that is leading to an incredible expansion in the co-production chain currently supporting more than 1.1 million workers.”

The Hilando Oportunidades project is one of the many assistance projects supported by the American people through USAID. Since 1961, USAID has worked closely with the Honduran people to improve their well-being.