Understanding the training needs of footwear technicians
How SATRA can help employers to benefit from staff training as part of their wider business plan.
by Lynne Fenyk
In the past, it was commonplace for footwear technicians or technologists to have had some experience working in a footwear production environment, as well as the opportunity to attend a technical footwear course at a local college. These courses gave students the chance to visit other production sites, in order to see a wide range of footwear constructions, components and materials being used in footwear production. Unfortunately, this learning path is not as readily available worldwide as it was, and technicians’ breadth of knowledge and experience is often limited by their employment.
The industry continues to evolve, and SATRA works with members to meet the ever-changing requirements of the global footwear market, including training.
SATRA has traditionally offered members footwear-related training courses, ranging from an appreciation of basic shoemaking through to our SATRA Accredited Footwear Technologist (SAFT) qualification, which was recently revised to comprise seven updated modules. While students can choose to study particular subjects of interest to them, they become SATRA-accredited technologists – considered a valuable asset during recruitment – if they achieve examination passes in five modules.
This is in addition to the many other courses, webinars and seminars organised for members which can be accessed via the SATRA website. However, we also develop customised versions of our courses to ensure that members’ specific needs are addressed appropriately.
Times have changed
Over the past 30 years, the footwear industry has changed dramatically and, in line with these adjustments, so has the workforce. Our individual expectations of employment have now been raised, for both job satisfaction and living standards. Very few people are now likely to remain in the employment of one employer for life. It is well accepted that members can expect key employees to change their employer (voluntary or not) several times in their working lifetime. In addition, people may have to seek new employment because of changes in the industry/supply chain – for example, because of footwear production transferring to different countries, sustainability considerations, new materials and methods of construction. This pattern of employment is now becoming evident throughout the world, giving rise to increased training needs for personnel throughout their career as their situation changes.
Many people working at the technical level – who wish to gain greater personal rewards and job satisfaction – feel that moving to another company and building on their experience is more likely to reward them with greater financial achievement and career fulfilment.
This employment pattern is compounded by the need of all countries to ensure that their labour resource has a high level of transferable skill value, enabling both economic and social stability in the open market. By its own design, this allows the individual greater choice and more rewards when transferring his or her skill and knowledge in the employment market.
The footwear industry now has a constantly changing workforce, both at an operational and technical level. This type of employment resource requires a different type of approach when looking at individual and company training needs.
Assessing training needs
All too often, companies commit vast amounts of resource when assessing and installing new equipment and technology for improving productivity and, ultimately, profit. However, they may not spend sufficient time in understanding and assessing the true training needs of both the individual and the company.
A lack of thorough training sometimes prevents employees and new technology from being exploited to their full potential. Therefore, it is beneficial to be as thorough when assessing individual and joint training needs as it is when introducing new technology and systems.
It is also necessary to consider what is expected from members of staff when the training is complete, which forms part of the much wider company business plan.
People – like companies – have very different needs. An individual’s requirements, although similar to others, are unique to his or her own environment. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the necessities of the individual and the company if training is to be successful, and good training programmes should be able to take this into account. The information gathered should, therefore, form the basis of the required training matrix and plan – before the training is undertaken.
SATRA has been at the forefront of training for many years, and the type of products offered to members range from in-factory instruction to intensive workshops, as well as other seminars and long-distance learning programmes.
How can we help?
SATRA offers a wide and evolving range of training courses which can be tailored to specific company requirements. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your specific needs.
This article was originally published on page 30 of the June 2021 issue of SATRA Bulletin.