- Work on manufacturing footwear, either in a factory or workshop
- Skilled or semi-skilled work, using tools or machinery
- Opportunity to progress into management roles
As a footwear manufacturing operative, you'll usually work to a pattern supplied by the footwear design team.
- Cutting and shaping leather or fabric pieces for the 'upper' section
- Stitching and sewing together individual sections to complete the upper
- Moulding the uppers into their final shape on a wooden or metal pattern called a 'last'
- Attaching soles with adhesives or by stitching
- Trimming heels to shape
- Staining soles, heels and edges before waxing and buffing
- Polishing the boot or shoe for the desired colour and effect
You could be working in a factory or in a workshop in possibly noisy conditions, and you may need to wear safety clothing.
For this role, you'll need the ability to work well with your hands, the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools, knowledge of manufacturing production and processes, observation and recording skills, to work well with others, and patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations.
You can apply directly to employers for a trainee position. Employers will want good practical skills which may be tested upon interview. Previous experience in shoe repairs, textiles or leatherwork may also be helpful. You'll also need good eyesight and colour-normal vision.
You could get into this job through a footwear manufacturer intermediate apprenticeship.
You could also take a college course such as Apparel, Footwear, Leather or Textile Production.
You could join the British Footwear Association for professional development, training opportunities and to make industry contacts. There is more information about careers in footwear manufacturing from the British Footwear Association and Creative Choices.
You could move into supervisory management, machinery maintenance or quality control. With further training, you could take up a career in footwear design or as a footwear technologist. You could also specialise in custom-made footwear, like luxury bespoke shoes, orthopaedic footwear, or historical and theatrical costume footwear.