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.

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.”

bca east midlands

Northampton College will host a multi-faith ‘Iftar’ dinner to mark Ramadan and bring together communities from across the county.

The dinner, which will be attended by Conservative MP for Northampton South Andrew Lewer, will see up to 100 people gather for a special meal after sunset on Thursday, May 31. Nazmul Quanine, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh, will be the guest of honour.

Northampton College principal Pat Brennan-Barrett said: “Northampton is a town with residents from all four corners of the globe, representing almost every country, every religion and every race. We are thrilled to be bringing the community together under one roof to celebrate Ramadan.”

The event is being staged by the East Midlands branch of the Bangladesh Caterers’ Association.

Guests will be served a traditional Iftar meal featuring fruits and a porridge-like dessert. Dates will be given to all those attending to emulate the Prophet Mohammad, who broke his fast this way.

BCA President Tipu Rahman said: “We are very grateful to Northampton College for hosting this event in their wonderful facilities at Booth Lane. We look forward to welcoming guests from across the region to Northampton and showcase our rich, vibrant, multi-ethnic culture. These traditions go back centuries and we are looking forward to sharing our customs with guests of every faith.”

Andrew Lewer, Conservative MP for Northampton South said: “Ramadan is clearly an important time in the Muslim calendar and this event is a wonderful way of bringing the community together to celebrate as a whole.“

the big rig

An all-female team of apprentices harnessed ‘Girl Power’ to design and install a hot water system capable of running a shower and emerge as the winners of The Big Rig – a low carbon challenge organised by Northampton College.

The girls narrowly beat a team of students studying science, technology, engineering and maths-related subjects in the final of the competition which has formed part of the College’s Igniting The Spark initiative.

The challenge saw teams compete to install a solar powered water system on a large scaffolding platform at the college’s Booth Lane campus.

It consisted of a mixture of practical and theoretical sessions linked to the curriculum, with a strong focus on health and safety. Teams were judged on a range of set criteria including how well they understand and plan the project, economical use of materials, design of a rain water collection system, waste management process and how effective they were as a team.

Paul Nelson, from sponsors Kier, said: “There is a major skills gap in the construction industry and events such as The Big Rig are vital in inspiring the next generation, giving students an opportunity to get hands-on and gain invaluable experience of a replicated workplace environment.

“It’s been fantastic to see the students working as a team to solve problems to the challenges they were presented with. Their work was extremely impressive and it’s great to see the future is in such good shape.”

Hands-on activities enhanced pupils’ problem solving skills and improved communication, team-working and leadership skills.

Amy Ball, a business apprentice who formed a part of the winning team, said: “It was brilliant to take part in The Big Rig, which is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It made me think about things in a completely different way and has improved my teamwork, communication and leadership skills. I’ve learnt a lot and made new friends along the way.”

Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal of Northampton College, said: “The Big Rig was an opportunity for young people to showcase their own ideas and ways of working. We want to create a future workforce capable of thinking for themselves, solving problems quickly and efficiently and using technology to create innovative new ways of doing business.”

The Big Rig follows on from two previous ‘Igniting The Spark’ workshops held in conjunction with the UK Space academy, which has seen students from seven Northamptonshire schools take a voyage of discovery to unearth the secrets of the solar system and find out more about the science of space.

Northampton College has recently revealed its proposal for a £4.75million Advanced Construction Engineering (ACE) Centre at Booth Lane, which will help train the next generation of construction industry professionals including builders, plumbers, carpenters and decorators and teach pioneering new techniques aimed at equipping future workers with the very latest skills.

Alongside courses which focus on craft skills there will also be courses at Level 3 for those looking for supervisory, technician or management careers in the sector, such as in Civil Engineering, Building Services Engineering, or Project Management.

Building work on the centre, which will include a revolutionary ‘Digital Lab’ featuring a Virtual Reality classroom, 3D printing facilities and industry-standard workshop equipment, is scheduled to get underway next summer.

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