South Carolina’s textile industry has been losing jobs for decades. In order to remain competitive, manufacturers are leaving the state to take advantage of labor costs in other countries.
Recognizing the shift in the industry, Clemson University says it will begin phasing out its textiles-related majors.
John Ballatto leads Clemson’s Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technology (COMSET). He said the degrees, which were offered as part of the school’s College of Materials Science & Engineering, will no longer be options for new students.
In place of the polymer and fiber chemistry majors, Clemson will instead offer a concentration in polymer materials for its materials science degree. Ballatto said the field is very broad, and Clemson is training students for the wide variety of materials they will face once they enter the workforce.
As the conveniences that we use every day have gotten more integrated in terms of their materials, the educational basis for the students who then go out and work in companies and innovate on those materials… also need to be broad-based.
Ballatto says Clemson is only following what American manufacturers are doing, since the private sector is already moving away from textiles. While traditional fiber products exist, most research is going into creating new, syntheitic materials and polymers.
The school will allow current students to graduate in polymer and fiber chemistry, before eliminating the major in 2013. Ballatto said the current number of students in the program is fewer than 100.