Work of the Future

Shimmy Upskill

Upskilling garment workers for new jobs in the age of automation

Team Lead

Sarah Krasley

Hear the Pitch 

The Problem

There are approximately 60 million garment workers around the world, who are primarily women in low-income countries with limited economic opportunity. The apparel industry is steadily adopting automation, and when sewing automation hits these factories, an expected 24 out of 25 workers will be forced to look for other jobs.

The Solution

To prepare for this shift, Shimmy Upskill provides garment workers with digital skills to thrive in the age of automation. Shimmy Upskill’s learning software uses game mechanics and AI to teach digital pattern making and 3D modeling—in-demand skills—allowing workers to move into a higher-paid position at a factory where they’re already employed.

Workers progress through modules on a low-cost tablet, tagging and annotating digital assets as they go. This annotation data is valuable to brands and manufacturers as it helps them accelerate the product design and production process. The result is a win-win system for both garment workers and apparel brands.

Market Opportunity

  • US apparel brands waste an estimated $16 billion per year in wages on stock-keeping unit (SKU) proliferation and lost revenue opportunities because apparel design relies on manual data entry.
  • Most upskilling applications with similar features have limited usability for the garment industry; software is often proprietary, lacks integrative features, and is only available in English.

Organization Highlights

  • Conducted four successful pilot programs: two in New York, NY and two in Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Awards: Winner of IEEE Retail Digital Transformation Grand Challenge, Finalist in Tommy Hilfiger Social Innovation Challenge
  • Entrepreneurship networks: New York Fashion Tech Lab, New Lab

Existing Partnerships

Shimmy Upskill currently partners with foundations, government departments, nonprofits, tech companies, and apparel companies such as:

  • Sri Lankan manufacturer NAF, C&A Foundation, and the New York Department of Labor Workforce Development Institute provided initial funding
  • BSR and Change Associates assisted in the coordination of Upskill pilots
  • Global Brands Group, Avery Dennison, Tommy Hilfiger, and NIKE provided product feedback and development expertise
  • IBM, Gerber Technologies, and Software Automation provided consultation and in-kind donations

Organization Goals

Shimmy Upskill seeks to:

  • Raise $1.4 million to further build out technology and connect to a data management platform
  • Refine Upskill learning modules to include brand objectives; share findings and build metrics
  • Expand pilots to two additional markets

Partnership Goals

To reach these goals, Shimmy Upskill seeks partnerships to:

  • Carry out pilots in Indonesian and Bangladeshi factories with brand partners
  • Secure angel and institutional investment for seed round  
  • Expand the use of Upskill’s software
  • Monitor and evaluate the organization’s social impact

Stats

Shimmy Upskill trains garment workers for higher-paying jobs in only 4 hours.

Solver Team

Organization Type: 
For-profit

Headquarters: 
New York, NY, USA

Stage: 
Pilot

Working in: 
Bangladesh, Indonesia, USA

Employees: 
6

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