Footwear industry launches new manufacturing apprenticeship

The British Footwear Association has announced the launch of a new nationally accredited apprenticeship standard, which will be available to companies and new entrants to the industry from autumn 2018.

The new apprenticeship has been designed by employers to be flexible, making it accessible for all footwear businesses from the smallest specialist maker to the largest manufacturer, while offering high-quality entry-level training and experience to those interested in joining the “highly skilled” footwear industry.

Created in association with the Institute for Apprenticeships, the scheme will last between 12 and 15 months, with typical day-to-day duties including cutting materials, skiving, sewing, forming the footwear, attaching the sole and finishing the footwear.

Industry offers more career opportunities than people realise

Firms involved in developing the standard includes Loake Brothers, New Balance, Hotter, Church’s, Dr. Martens, Crockett and Jones, Trickers, International Dance Shoes, Gaziano and Girling and Joseph Cheaney and Sons.

Stephen Bent, UK production manager for Dr Martens, said in a press release: “This is a great industry that offers more career opportunities than people realise. We need supervisors, managers, and skilled makers like clickers and closers going forwards.

“This scheme provides a hands on, earn while you learn option. We wanted to create a scheme which, no matter which firm you had your apprenticeship with, the skills, knowledge and understanding you gain will be of relevance to any employers so a qualified apprentice will be a very employable person.”

British footwear industry develops new nationally accredited apprenticeship

Potential recruits should approach the company they wish to work for directly or formally register interest with Northampton College, West Lancashire College or London Capel Manor College.

Robert Perkins, British Footwear Association board member and chief operating officer at Hotter, the UK’s largest footwear manufacturer, added: “We want to offer a high-quality entry point to new recruits in a role that opens the door to a career in production and shoe-making. There is a great appetite to grow UK production and developing our skill base is crucial to our future.”

There are around 30 larger factories and 80 to 100 smaller specialist businesses manufacturing and making shoes in the UK, notes the British Footwear Association, which collectively manufactured around 6 million pairs of shoes in 2017, with a value of 400 million pounds, up from 5.6 million in 2016. The manufacturing part of the footwear industry employs 4,000 people, approximately half of those are footwear manufacturers.

British Footwear Association, chief executive John Saunders said: "International interest in British made footwear has never been higher. It is vital for future success that this sector’s unique making skills are protected and developed. “Additionally, there are firms that wish to expand production, so this collective effort on training will ensure that all manufacturing businesses are able to offer the kind of nationally approved and formal training we haven’t seen for some time in the UK.”

Image: via British Footwear Association website - Adele Wiliamson/Trickers