Northamptonshire’s boot and shoe heritage is something for the county to be hugely proud of but a new generation of Northampton College apprentices are reimagining this iconic industry for the 21st century.
As part of a growing partnership with the British Footwear Association (BFA), students are experiencing life in the factories of some of the world’s biggest boot and shoe brands – earning while they learn and developing their skills to ensure the profession is able to flourish for years to come.
Students’ work was on display as part of the BFA’s 120th anniversary celebrations at Delapre Abbey on Thursday, March 28. Shoes handmade by current apprentices at Church & Co took centre stage alongside classic footwear from manufacturers such as Loake Bros, Tricker’s and Crockett & Jones.
Level Two footwear manufacturing apprentice Tom Glennon said: “The apprenticeship has been an unbelievable opportunity to learn a range of skills which can be applied across the entire shoe manufacturing business.
“I’ve spent time in every department and seen how it all works. I’ve even had the chance to make my own pair of custom made shoes from scratch which is amazing.”
Fellow apprentice Bobby Nangla added: “I’m very fashion focused so to have the chance to work for one of the world’s most respected and iconic shoe manufacturers is a dream come true.
“There’s so much history associated with the brand and it’s a real privilege to be able to work alongside industry professionals and learn skills to last a lifetime.”
The students are the first cohort to be following a newly-agreed footwear manufacturing apprenticeship standard, shaped following consultation between the BFA, manufacturers and education providers.
The standard sets out an agreed pathway for students to follow throughout their apprenticeship, outlining typical day-to-day duties such as cutting and thinning materials, ‘closing’ and ‘lasting’ the shoes, attaching the sole and finishing the footwear.
The BFA anniversary celebrations culminated in a black tie dinner at Delapre Abbey, with Northampton College music performance students Josefine Ackermann, Elliot Storey and Elliot Clark entertaining guests at the drinks reception.