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(L-R) Sam Buff, vice president and general manager of the Manufacturing and Textile Innovation Network, J. Tyler Medlin, Textile Technology Center apprentice, and Don Rusch, product development coordinator for the center, participate in the Apprenticeship 321 Signing ceremony held virtually on September 14 at the Gaston College Dallas Campus. 

Gaston College

Textile Technology Center signs first apprenticeship program participant 

Posted November 24, 2020


BELMONT, N.C. – The Textile Technology Center at Gaston College’s Kimbrell Campus has signed its first apprentice through the Apprenticeship 321 program. J. Tyler Medlin was introduced as a program participant at an Apprenticeship 321 graduation and signing ceremony held virtually on September 14.


“Tyler started out as a contract helper here after he graduated from high school, and once we got to know his skills and work ethic, we brought him on board as a full-time specialist,” said Don Rusch, product development coordinator. “He is one of our youngest staff specialists and we thought he would benefit from the Apprenticeship 321 program. Tyler was a perfect candidate to continue his education and build toward a career instead of a job. His father and grandfather designed and managed the Textile Technology Center’s Fiber Extrusion Lab, so he has an affinity for the textile industry.”


Medlin began as a contractor at the Gaston College Textile Technology Center in 2014 when he was 19 years old. When he expressed to Sam Buff, vice president and general manager of the Manufacturing and Textile Innovation Network, that he was interested in bettering himself and furthering his knowledge in the textile field, Buff told him about opportunities with the Apprenticeship 321 program.


“I was interested in an apprenticeship because there are gaps in my knowledge pertaining to certain aspects of my duties here that needed to be addressed,” said Medlin. “The apprenticeship has given me a chance to get an education outside and on top of the job training that was provided to me when I first started at the center.”


The apprenticeship started in August and Medlin is on track to complete it in 2022. 


Medlin’s current job is lead product development maintenance specialist. During his apprenticeship, Medlin will be working in product development of mechanical extruding specialty chemical fibers for military, medical, fire protection, recycling and other applications. He is responsible for the operation and maintenance of equipment, and does some fabrication, consulting, minor electrical work and sourcing of materials. He also will be exposed to other industrial process technical and electronics outside the traditional textile industry arena. 


It was recently announced that the Textile Technology Center is partnering with the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) at Catawba Valley Community College, the City of Conover, Gaston County and the private sector to create a launch pad for prototyping and testing reusable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) products for entrepreneurs and existing manufacturers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Medlin has been working on that project as well.


“With COVID-19, we anticipate that this sector will grow,” said Rusch. “Not only in terms of COVID, but in other treatment areas as well. Examples would be fibers and fabrics that kill bacteria and staph infections, deliver pain medication, monitor vitals, treat burns and eczema, etc.” 


The Textile Technology Center would welcome Tyler to its staff after he has completed the apprenticeship.


“Tyler could have long-term career opportunities here at the TTC if he chooses,” said Rusch. “He will also be presented with opportunities with the industry. We are uber-proud of Tyler and are confident in his success with the Apprenticeship 321 program. We hope it leads him to the next step of an associate degree.” 


After the apprenticeship program, Medlin plans to further his textile-based education at N.C. State’s Wilson College of Textiles. He is interested in continuing at the Textile Technology Center as he believes that he can make valuable contributions there.


“I love what I do, and I love working here – and that is not an exaggeration,” said Medlin. “It feels amazing that I have aided in the development of safer uniform materials for our troops and firemen, biodegradable thermoplastics, recycled thermoplastics, and the development of a process to coat yarns with medicine. This place has given me a deep sense of purpose that I may never have found while doing any other job.” 


Participants in the Apprenticeship 321 program receive job-specific training and a cost-free education from Gaston College while earning a salary from local employers. For more information about the Apprenticeship 321 program, visit or contact Jill Hendrix, director of Apprenticeships and Work-Based Learning, at 704-922-6521 or by email here. 


Source: Textile Technology Center at Gaston College

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J. Tyler Medlin

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