How to become a Footwear Manufacturing Operative

footwear manufacturing operative careers

What does a Footwear Manufacturing Operative do?

Footwear manufacturing operatives make all types of footwear products including fashion footwear, children's shoes, sports shoes, and safety shoes and boots. They use a range of hand tools, and mechanical and computerised equipment.

There are four main processes involved in producing most footwear. Some operatives specialise on a particular aspect of the manufacturing process, others may be involved in the entire cycle:

Clicking - leather or fabric for the top of the shoe (the upper) is cut and shaped, with wastage kept to an absolute minimum. Operatives also take care to avoid any surface flaws in the raw materials, which would spoil the finished appearance.

Closing – operatives stitch together the pieces for the upper either by hand, or using a semi-automated sewing machine. Work on edgings and insertion of eyelets is carried out at this stage.

Lasting and making – the uppers are moulded into the finished shape using different mechanised processes such as cement lasting, direct injection moulding and sidewall stitching. Soles are only temporarily attached to allow the removal of the last from the shoe.

Finishing and shoe room – soles and heels are trimmed and buffed. Products are stained, polished and waxed, and laces and tags attached. Quality checks are carried out before products are packaged and boxed for distribution.

Some operatives may have the opportunity to work on made-to-measure orthopaedic adjustments or on specialist historical or theatrical costume footwear.

What's the working environment like working as a Footwear Manufacturing Operative?

Shoe manufacturing operatives work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some factories operate a shift system. Overtime may be available, and part-time work is possible.

Most operatives work in factories although bespoke manufacturers may be based in smaller workshops.

Protective clothing is worn for some jobs, particularly when working with dyes or solvents.

What does it take to become a Footwear Manufacturing Operative?

To be a footwear manufacturing operative you should:

  • have an aptitude for practical work
  • be a teamworker but also able to work on your own initiative
  • be able to carry out detailed work
  • have an awareness of health and safety issues
  • have the ability to operate machinery and use computerised equipment
  • be able to understand design patterns and instructions
  • have normal eyesight and colour vision, as some tasks may involve very close work such as matching stitches, patterns and dyes.

Footwear Manufacturing Operative Career Opportunities

Most footwear manufacturing companies are located in Northamptonshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Somerset, London, parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland. Outside these areas opportunities for work are limited, except in small craft workshops.

Career progression may be possible to a supervisory, quality control or training position, with multi-skilled operatives enjoying greater opportunities for progression. Some footwear manufacturing operatives move into bespoke footwear manufacture.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Footwear Manufacturing Operative that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Richmond House
Lawnswood Business Park
Redvers Close
LS16 6RD

British Footwear Association
3 Burystead Place

Facts and Stats:

  • 4,076,000 people work in manufacturing in the UK, making it the nation''s top occupation
  • Brazil is the top coffee-producing country in the world, producing 1,653,020 tonnes a year
  • Chicago has more chocolate manufacturers within a small radius than any other place in the world

Courses to help you become a Footwear Manufacturing Operative