Toronto College Launches Fashion Hub for Immigrants, At-Risk Youth

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Toronto College Launches Fashion Hub for Immigrants, At-Risk Youth

George Brown College launched a new fashion hub that is improving employment opportunities for immigrants and at-risk youth in Toronto's Regent Park neighborhood. The "Fashion Exchange" is a collaborative space where fashion, education and industry are linked together in one location.

Reflecting George Brown's longstanding commitment to community, social and economic development, the hub connects the Regent Park community to the city's fashion sector through skills training, educates fashion students in advanced production systems and offers manufacturing expertise to companies and emerging designers. 

To help address industry skills shortages while developing young talent and creating job opportunities for under-employed youth, the Fashion Exchange will deliver training through the Ontario Youth Skills Connections program to prepare individuals for entry-level jobs in the fashion industry. Developed in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and George Brown's Community Partnerships Office, the Apparel Fit Technician and Industrial Power Sewing programs are open to youth ages 18-29, completed over 16 weeks through George Brown's School of Fashion Studies.

"George Brown is proud to take a leadership role in building bridges between the community and employment. The Fashion Exchange brings fashion and education together, forging new pathways to employment for residents of Regent Park," said Anne Sado, president, George Brown College. "With new programs concentrated on jobs currently facing labor shortages, we are also building the workforce the fashion sector needs and delivering career-ready graduates necessary to fill critical vacancies in and around the GTA."

In addition to delivering community-based skills training, Fashion Exchange will provide exciting opportunities for fashion students to experience day-to-day challenges of apparel production in a "lean" small-scale setting. With a goal of enabling a new generation of production specialists, new programs will be developed to prepare students to enter the industry with a grasp of the sustainable production process and how to balance cost, quality, environmental and ethical production requirements.

To retain local talent and boost domestic apparel production in Toronto, the facility will also offer manufacturing support to local companies and emerging designers for production of short runs and samples. These services will enable growth of small brands as well as develop capacity and expertise for production in Toronto. New designers will have access to the Fashion Exchange to produce their collections until they reach sufficient scale to evolve to larger production runs.

The facility was supported by $570,000 from the Ministry of Economic Development Employment and Infrastructure, as well as financial contributions from The Daniels Corporation, The R. Howard Webster Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., The State Street Foundation and Toronto Community Housing.

"Ensuring today's youth are well prepared for the future is a key priority for this government. Our Youth Skills Connections fund – part of Ontario's Youth Jobs Strategy – supports high-impact, sector-focused partnerships between business, labor and educators to give young people the industry-recognized skills and opportunities they need," said the Honourable Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. "We're excited to partner with George Brown and fashion industry leaders on this collaborative hub, which will solve gaps in the sector while training youth for in-demand jobs."

The Fashion Exchange builds on George Brown's growing reputation as a leading fashion educator. The School of Fashion Studies currently delivers certificate, diploma and post graduate programs that introduce students to fashion technology and the fundamentals of design, marketing, merchandising, manufacturing and fashion management.