Northampton College has helped launch a new nationally accredited apprenticeship standard to train the next generation of shoemakers, teaming up with some of the industry’s most iconic names to ensure specialist skills are passed on to the workforce of the future, writes Dan Owens.
The British Footwear Association has partnered with companies including Loake, Church’s, Dr Martens, Tricker’s and Crocket & Jones to develop the new standard, with Northampton College developing a fully-functioning ‘shoe room’ to enable students to gain off-site machine and equipment experience throughout their apprenticeship.
The new standard will come into effect this autumn and is a vital development for the British footwear manufacturing industry. It has been designed by employers to be flexible and to work for everyone from small, specialist makers to large multi-national manufacturers.
Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal of Northampton College, said: “We are delighted to be at the forefront of this innovative new programme, aimed at training the workforce of the future in Northampton’s most iconic industry.
“Northampton has been synonymous with footwear for hundreds of years and we look forward to helping the next generation learn the skills they will need to ensure the industry not only survives but thrives both locally and nationally for years to come.”
The new apprenticeship offers high quality entry-level training and experience to those interested in joining a highly skilled, globally respected industry.
Helen Errington, HR Manager for Church’s, said: “Church’s has always trained apprentices to ensure a succession of skilled staff able to produce the highest quality footwear. We are very pleased to be involved with colleagues in building this new scheme which will make sure the training is even more focused on the technical and skilled aspects of production.”
There are around 30 larger factories and up to 100 smaller specialist manufacturers making shoes in the UK. Collectively they manufacture around six million pairs of shoes per year, with a value of £400 million. More than half of the footwear produced in the UK is exported. The manufacturing part of the footwear industry employs 4,000 people.
BFA Chief Executive John Saunders said: “International interest in British brands is always incredibly healthy, particularly so for the premium hand-made shoes, of the type made in Northamptonshire, alongside numerous smaller businesses nationwide.
“It is economically imperative, that the skills are protected and developed. Additionally there are firms wishing 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.”
Northampton College will work closely with the BFA to develop a ‘technical academy’ for apprentices in the next few years.
Stephen Bent from Dr Martens said: “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 employer so a qualified apprentice will be a very employable person.”
For more information visit www.northamptoncollege.ac.uk.