by Chris Kuennen
Ongoing skills development trainings are integral to Purnaa and our achievement of excellence in garment manufacturing. Our Team Sewing System (TSS) emphasizes skill diversification to foster cohesive, efficient production teams. Rather than acting simply as cogs in a standard factory line, Purnaa employees are pushed to develop the breadth and depth of their abilities every day. Continuing training programs not only build Purnaa’s collective expertise, they also instill the dignity of a valued artisan in our team members.
After sixteen years of teaching garment manufacturing in her native Australia, Suzanne Allibone decided it was time for a change. For years she traveled the globe, volunteering in industries far different from her initial garment manufacturing background. One of her jobs brought her to Nepal. While visiting a Kathmandu flower market, Suzanne met Purnaa co-owners Richard and Mary Faber. Prior to their meeting, Mary had heard from a friend about Suzanne’s background in sewing training, and so invited Suzanne up to Purnaa to conduct several sessions focused on ongoing sewing skills development. It was a great fit! We were all delighted when Suzanne agreed to return to Nepal this year and spend the month of June with us to run a more in depth training with our sewing staff.
Working with Purnaa team members on everything from how to sit properly at their machines to choosing the appropriate stitch length for a given piece, Suzanne wants to make every sewer an expert. One benefit of Purnaa’s TSS is the time and space created to spend on troubleshooting complicated projects. As our sewers improve the speed and accuracy of their sewing, they also develop the situational awareness needed to analyze issues in the manufacturing process and find targeted solutions. Building this expertise not only ensures the quality of Purnaa products, it improves production efficiency at every stage.
Skills training at Purnaa is not limited to developing technical competence. Suzanne aims to expand each team’s capacity for further improvement. These efforts start with the team leaders, the individuals responsible for implementing Suzanne’s lessons every work day. Suzanne helps supervisors apply sensitive and supportive leadership strategies for correcting mistakes and inspiring sustained commitment to Purnaa’s high standards. Because some Purnaa team members lacked education opportunities as children, Suzanne’s training programs also focused on improving critical thinking skills. Suzanne has helped many staff members better understand the math behind their measuring. For some, her lessons were the first time they had encountered the concept of fractions in a practical and meaningful way.
Describing her approach to educating, Suzanne stresses, “You just need a lot of patience and you bring it down so that they still maintain their dignity and they don’t feel that they’re stupid.” Years of teaching have taught Suzanne creative ways to help her students achieve, but ultimately she thinks her personality is a natural fit for education. By staying genuine, keeping the mood light, and emphasizing a mutual desire for excellent products, Suzanne has earned the respect of everyone at Purnaa.
When we ask her about her experience here with us, she laughs. She never imagined she would return to teaching sewing textiles, but she grins as she tells us, “I love teaching. I really love it.”