Occupations in this sector

There are numerous occupations which apply sewing skills – not only with respect to garments, but in other sectors as well. These include:

  • Garments, hats, gloves – manufacture and alteration
    • dressmaker
    • seamstress
    • tailor
    • industrial sewing machine operator
    • alterationist
    • custom furrier
    • furrier
    • glove maker
    • milliner/hatmaker
  • Other sewing applications
    • Draper
    • Home decor
    • Embroiderer
    • Leatherworker
    • Quilter
    • Sailmaker
    • Shoemaker
    • Upholsterer

A quick look at the Indeed Canada job search site indicates that there are numerous, entry-level positions available in garment and other factories for industrial sewing machine operators, beginning at the minimum wage level. Some of these employers offer training and do not require high school level education, but many are looking for experienced operators. The challenge for a newcomer interested in this type of work will be to find a first job that does not require prior industrial machine experience.

Aside from factory work, there are also sewing opportunities in retail establishments, including clothing stores, cleaners, and repair/alteration services. Prior experience and demonstrated skills would in all likelihood be required by such employers.

A third option for a newcomer is to develop a home-based enterprise, either producing his or her own products, or for example, offering repairs and alterations.

According to the Labour Force Survey (2015), 51% of tailors, dressmakers, furriers and milliners across Canada were self-employed, while the average for all occupations was 14%. Also across Canada, 70% in these occupations worked full-time, compared to the average of 81% for all occupations.

According to the National Household Survey (2011), women represented 85% in this category across Canada, compared to the average of 48% for all occupations.

Canada Goose – Sewing Machine Operator

The following job description, which was circulated in the Summer of 2018 by Canada Goose, is likely a good indication of what similar manufacturers are seeking:
Number of vacant positions: 30
Hiring start date: As soon as possible
Position Overview:
Reporting to the Sewing Supervisor, you will play a critical role in helping to produce Canada Goose outerwear according to the high standards of quality Canada Goose is known for all over
the world. In this role you will be responsible for assembling different components of our jackets and maintaining a high level craftsmanship each and every day.

Wondering what you’d be doing?

  • Work as part of a larger team to complete a garment
  • Sew various parts of a garment including, but not limited to, pockets, flaps, zippers, hoods and sleeves as well as lining to shell
  • Assess the quality of garment pieces before sewing to ensure garments are up to Canada Goose quality standards
  • Ensure individual productivity quotas are met or exceeded on a daily basis, while at the same time maintaining Canada Goose quality standards

Here’s what we are looking for…

  • 2-3 years’ sewing experience, preferably in apparel manufacturing industry
  • Experience on single needle, double needle and seam serger machines
  • Experience on specialty machines considered a definite asset
  • Experience joining sections of garments into a finished product
  • Must be able to work independently in a fast paced environment
  • Sewing machine operation and controls.
  • Product quality inspection and evaluation.
  • Arm-hand steadiness (the ability to keep the hand and arm steady while running fabric through a machine).
  • Manual dexterity (the ability to quickly make coordinated movements with one or both hands to manipulate fabric).
  • Control precision (the ability to quickly and repeatedly make precise adjustments in operating the foot controls of a machine).
  • Consistently exhibits Canada Goose’s Values, taking pride in being innovative, respectful, passionate, accountable, and entrepreneurial while exhibiting personal commitment.

Value of English language proficiency

Whether working in a factory or a in a small shop, sufficient English language proficiency is likely to be required in order for a newcomer to understand instructions and any training and to be able to ask questions and communicate concerns (unless he or she is able to find an employer who speaks the same language.) For this purpose, CLB 3 or 4 may be sufficient.

For newcomers considering developing their own home-based, sewing enterprises, sufficient English will be required to market and sell their goods and to deal with all of the paperwork associated with self-employment.

Regulation and certification

There is currently no certification required in Ontario to work in sewing.

Training programs for newcomers in the GTA

At present, there do not appear to be any occupation-specific language programs in the GTA for sewing, nor are there any formal apprenticeship programs.

There was one entry-level program in central Toronto for Syrian refugee women, called Darzee, which was organized by Mes Amis. This program helped “develop and hone sewing skills with the immediate objective of marketing this skill to the community at large as a means of earning income.” However, that program is not operating in 2018.

Another entry-level program that is currently running, but is not restricted to refugees or other newcomers, but certainly welcomes them, is SEW IT! (Sewing Entrepreneurship for Women in Toronto,) organized by Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto. This program is also for women only and, like Darzee, is focused on developing self-employment capabilities.

The SEW IT! program has no minimum English proficiency requirement.

Details of this programs can be viewed in the Programs & Events section of this website, by selecting “sewing” in the ‘sector’ filter.

Job market outlook

The number of sewing-based jobs in the GTA is not likely to increase over the coming years and there may be an over-supply of job-seekers for positions available.

Stories in the media about newcomer employment in this sector

The following stories, reported in the media, about employment of newcomers in the sewing sector, may be of interest: