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Despite Industry Layoffs, Students Still See Future In Textiles

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RALEIGH, N.C. — From Pillowtex to VF Jeanswear, layoffs in the textile industry just keep coming.

A person might wonder why a college student would choose textiles as a major. But students and staff at North Carolina State say the industry still offers good opportunities.

As several students tested medical garments to see how to make them more comfortable, they offered just one example of work in the textiles industry that is still going strong in the United States.

"The muscle of the industry has moved off shore; the brains are right here in the U.S.," said Kent Hester, of N.C. State's Career Services.

Despite layoffs in the industry, Hester said this year's freshman class in NCSU's College of Textiles is the largest in more than five years.

The students are still learning basic fiber and yarn. But most of them also are getting into high-tech areas.

Shanna Kelly intends to research feminine products.

"Mostly, men are developing some of the things that women are using," said Kelly, who's majoring in Textile Engineering, "and I felt that there is no way a male could tell a woman what she really needed."

In N.C. State's Thermal Protection Laboratory, students test fabrics to see what will best protect firefighters. They say there are plenty of jobs right here in the U.S. doing that kind of work.

After it is determined what fabric works best, the high-tech suits likely will be made in the U.S. instead of overseas.

Chad Seastrunk said that fact keeps him and his peers from worrying about whether or not they will get jobs.

"A lot of the students in my class, being seniors, already half of them have job offers on the table, and it is only October," said Seastrunk, a textile engineering major.

Many of those job offers come from companies in the United States. According to the Career Services Department, the College of Textiles never has placed a single student in a job overseas.

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