The course is being launched to ensure specialist skills are passed on to the workforce of the future

The course is being launched to ensure specialist skills are passed on to the workforce of the future

In a boost for UK manufacturing, 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 including Church's and Dr Martens, the course is being launched to ensure specialist skills are passed on to the workforce of the future.

The British Footwear Association (BFA) has partnered with the footwear companies 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 being seen 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.

"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," says Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal of Northampton College.

The new apprenticeship offers high quality entry-level training and experience to those interested in joining what is a highly skilled and globally respected industry.

There are currently around 30 larger factories and up to 100 smaller specialist manufacturers making shoes in the UK. Collectively they manufacture around 6m pairs of shoes per year, with a value of GBP400m (US$532.4m). More than half of the footwear produced in the UK is exported. The manufacturing part of the footwear industry employs 4,000 people.

"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," says BFA chief executive John Saunders

"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."