Tailored for the job

  • Education
  • Sunday, 03 Dec 2006

THE Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) could not have approached a better person than Mrs Siva Mahesan for its Vocational Training Opportunity Centre's (VTOC) tailoring course. 

Mahesan had trained as a Home Economics teacher at Brinsford Lodge, England, (from 1956-58).  

Upon returning to Malaysia, she taught in secondary schools between 1959 and 1983. Following that, she was posted to the Technical and Vocational Division of the Education Ministry, where she worked until her retirement in 1993. 

MAHESAN: When the girls first came in, many didn’t know how to handle needle and thread.

She barely had time to put away her sewing basket when she was re-employed at a vocational school in Setapak, KL. She worked there for three years. Then came the YWCA’s request – and out came her pins and needles again. 

Today, Mahesan’s seventh batch of trainees will pass out from VTOC’s Sewing and Tailoring course. Eight of the 15 graduates will receive both Basic and Advance certificates. 

On Nov 18, for the first time since the course was introduced, the students put up a fashion show to show what they had learnt during their year-long training programme. 

“When the girls first came in, many didn’t know how to handle needle and thread,” Mahesan recalled at the tea show.  

“Some of them didn’t understand English or Bahasa, so I had to explain in Tamil and show them what to do.” 

But their eagerness to learn saw the students progress from the basics (hand-stitching and machining straight lines), to more complicated tasks like patchwork, taking measurements, drafting patterns and handling high-speed sewing machines. 

She said most of the sewing and tailoring graduates planned to start their own business. Over the years, some have opened small shops while others have found jobs in factories or with designers. Some work from home, taking orders to supplement their family income. 

Mahesan added that the students left the centre with more than just vocational skills. 

“We have had girls who were quiet and moody when they first came in. They couldn’t read and wouldn’t mix with the others.  

“By the end of their training, you can see that they have become confident and sociable.”  

Mahesan, 68, who commutes between Klang and KL five days a week to teach, always thinks of new ideas to keep her mind active. 

Two years ago, she found an able assistant in Thanam Letchumy, a graduate from her second batch of students. – BY TAN GIM EAN 

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