Footwear Operative

Footwear Operatives use hand tools, technical equipment and machinery to create footwear. They need to have an attention to detail and quality, work to deadlines and be mindful of health and safety.

What would you do?

Footwear Operatives can produce a wide range of footwear from children’s, ladies’ or men’s shoes to trainers or slippers. They use both traditional craft skills and technical processes. They may make specialist or bespoke items or work in a team making runs of the same piece of footwear. Regardless of the method and business size, footwear operatives must know and understand the end-to-end process of how to manufacture a piece of footwear.

Day to day tasks include:

  • Organising and maintaining an efficient workstation
  • Operating specialist industrial machines
  • Skiving, closing or lasting footwear
  • Finishing footwear and checking quality

Where would you work?

Footwear Operatives can work in a large company or a smaller specialist footwear business making bespoke footwear. They can be based in a design studio, workshop or on a production line, depending on the size of the business. Conditions can be noisy, work can be repetitive and deadlines have to be met.

What would you be paid?

For a typical working week of approx. 39 hours

A Footwear Operative’s starting salary on average is £12,000-£14,000 per year
An experienced Footwear Manufacturers salary on average is £16,000-£22,700 per year.

Pay rates vary depending on age, experience, location and the size of the company. Additional benefits may include pension and health care. Many companies offer overtime, bonuses or piece rate in order to meet deadlines.

Footwear Operative Apprenticeship: Employers, by law must pay the government’s apprenticeship minimum wage rate. Research show that many fashion and textiles employers supplement this rate of pay.

Will you need qualifications or training?

Experienced is preferred, however employers are keen to train new Footwear Operatives and qualifications are not required to enter this job role. Training is delivered on-the-job; either on the production floor or in a training section. Employers may also register new trainees onto the Level 2 Footwear Manufacturers Apprenticeship

For more information on this apprenticeships go to The British Footwear Association

Qualifications relating to the Footwear Operative role are available via ABC Awards (Part of the Skills & Education Group) and Pearson.

What are the career prospects?

With experience, a Footwear Operative can progress to team leadership, management, product development or a training role. An experienced, highly skilled footwear Operative may also move into a specialist production role, crafting high quality footwear.

How secure is the future of this career?

The British footwear manufacturing industry has a very high reputation internationally, and supports the pursuit of excellence in its traditional craft skills whilst also embracing innovation and technology. The industry manufacture circa 5.6 million pairs of shoes per year, with a value of £380 million. Almost half of the footwear produced in the UK is exported. The industry employs 4000 people; approximately half of those are footwear manufacturers.

The Footwear industry is part of the UK’s world-class textile manufacture base, which is growing, thriving and continually investing. Sector employment continues to grow steadily from 97,000 in 2011 to 108,000 in 2016, with an added 19,500 self-employed and research estimates the creation of 20,000 new jobs by 2020.

The number of UK textile & apparel manufacturing businesses has increased annually from 7190 in 2013 to 8075 in 2017 with forecast of further growth.
Textile goods exported across the globe continues to grow with export increases recorded at £250M in March 2016 to £273M in March 2017.

UK Fashion & textile manufacture covers traditional craft to technical textiles and has a production value of £9.1BN, add the wide fashion sector this increases to £28.1BN sector – 4.7% of the total UK economy.

Where can you find job vacancies?

Vacancies are advertised across the UK with concentration in London, the Northwest, West Yorkshire and the Midlands. This job roe may be advertised as Footwear Manufacturer. Check out the latest vacancies on the site below:

Total Jobs
Drapers Jobs

Footwear Operative Apprenticeship vacancies:

Some apprenticeship vacancies are ‘open to application’. With details on how to apply within the job vacancy details, these can be found on the job sites listed above. Apprenticeship vacancies can also be found via the Find an Apprenticeship’ Service. For further information, advise and tips on how to apply for an apprenticeship vacancy see the UCAS site apprenticeships–in-the-uk. (Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales)
/ (England)

The websites above are external and the number of job vacancies may vary. Check daily to see new opportunities as they are posted!


See websites associated to the Footwear Operative job role below:

Top 30 British made shoe brands
The British Footwear Association