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Footwear manufacturing operative

Footwear manufacturing operatives make shoes, boots and sports footwear for all ages. 

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £13,500 to £22,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need good practical skills, and you may need to pass a practical test when interviewed. You’ll also need good eyesight and colour-normal vision.

You could get into this job through an apprenticeship.

You could also take a college course in footwear or fashion to learn the skills you’ll need in this job.

Previous experience in shoe repairs, textiles or leatherwork may also be helpful.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • the ability to work quickly and accurately
  • the ability to follow design patterns and instructions
  • practical skills for using hand tools, technical equipment and machinery

3. What you'll do

You’ll usually work to a pattern supplied by the footwear design team. Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • cutting (‘clicking’) – trimming and shaping leather or fabric pieces for the 'upper' section
  • stitching (‘closing’) – sewing together the individual sections to complete the upper
  • lasting – moulding the uppers into their final shape on a wooden or metal pattern called a 'last'
  • making – attaching the soles with adhesive or stitching
  • finishing – fitting and trimming heels to shape, and staining the soles, heels and edges before waxing and buffing
  • ‘shoe room’ – working on the final stage of production, polishing the shoe for the desired colour and effect

4. Salary

Starter: £13,500 to £15,000

Experienced: £16,000 to £22,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 37 to 40 hours a week. You’ll work in a factory, with most of your time spent at a workbench operating production machinery.

You may need to use safety clothing and equipment, like ear protectors, a face mask, gloves and safety spectacles.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could move into supervisory management, engineering maintenance or quality control. With further training, you could take up a career in footwear design or as a footwear technologist. 

You could specialise in custom-made footwear, like luxury bespoke shoes, orthopaedic footwear, or specialist historical and theatrical costume footwear.

Last updated: 07 December 2016