VF Corporation has announced a new corporate apprenticeship programme across its Timberland, Vans and The North Face brands to provide unique access to professional design experience and empower Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students as they learn, create, and build a career in the footwear industry. 

The mission of the partnership will be to invest in the industry’s future and create a programme that ensures diversity of thinking and experience.

The immersive curriculum was developed in partnership with Pensole, a Portland-based footwear design academy, which provides students with the knowledge and experiences required to become well-rounded professional footwear designers. DiverCity x Design will equip students with footwear design principles, product creation process, hands-on experience, professional development training, and brand engagement. The top-performing students will be granted career mentorship with cultural experiences at each of the brand’s headquarter cities.

The programme will begin with 27 students attending a three-week online pre-programme that challenges their personal and professional skills. Phase two will see 18 of those students selected by the brands to enter the eight-week Pensole Masterclass. Here, students will be divided into three teams to present one capstone project that will develop their footwear and retail industry knowledge.

The top five performing students will earn the opportunity to participate in a year-long rotational apprenticeship across each of the brands’ headquarters to gain intimate, hands-on knowledge of different cultures and ways of working.

“I have been a consumer of Vans, Timberland and The North Face brands for decades, and it is humbling to see our relationship grow into us working together on such a meaningful programme,” Pensole founder D’Wayne Edwards said. “DiverCity x Design is an amazing opportunity to reach consumers where they are and provide them a pathway into our industry unlike what they have been afforded before.”

In addition, this spring the Timberland brand will launch a youth programme in partnership with CONSTNT: DVLPMNT and Pensole Academy. The “Creative Discovery Tools” youth programme will introduce middle-schoolers to careers within the footwear industry through a four-week online footwear and colour design programme. The goal is to scale the programme over the next five years to span middle school, high school, and post K-12 opportunities that focus on developing industry-ready designers.

Open enrolment for the programme will run through 30 March. Applicants must be BIPOC, 18 years of age and actively enrolled in school.