Footwear manufacturing operative

Shoemaker, shoe maker

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

Salary range: £13,500 to £22,000

How to become a footwear manufacturing operative

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly


You could do a college course, which would teach you some of the skills you need in this job, like the Level 2 Certificate or Level 3 Diploma in Apparel, Footwear, Leather or Textile Production.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course

More information


You can do a footwear manufacturer intermediate apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship

More information

Direct application

You can apply directly to employers for a trainee position.

Employers will want you to have good practical skills, and they could ask you to sit a practical test at the interview stage. Experience in shoe repairs, textiles or leatherwork may be helpful.

More information

Professional and industry bodies

You could join the British Footwear Association for professional development, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.

Further information

You can find out more about careers and training in footwear manufacturing from the British Footwear Association and Creative Choices.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • observation and recording skills
  • the ability to operate and control equipment
  • the ability to work well with others
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • cutting and shaping leather or fabric pieces for the ‘upper’ section
  • stitching and sewing together individual sections to complete the upper
  • moulding uppers into their final shape on a wooden or metal pattern called a ‘last’
  • attaching soles with adhesives or by stitching
  • trimming heels to shape
  • staining soles, heels and edges before waxing and buffing
  • polishing the boot or shoe for the desired colour and effect

Working environment

You could work in a factory or in a workshop.

Your working environment may be noisy.

You may need to wear safety clothing and use safety equipment.

Career path and progression

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

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

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