Footwear Manufacturing Operative

Job Description:

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

Job Category:
Art & Fashion

What you will do:

As a footwear manufacturing operative you could:

  • Cut leather or fabric pieces from a pattern, for the ‘upper’ section
  • Stitch and sew together individual sections to complete the upper
  • Mould uppers into their final shape on a wooden or metal mould called a ‘last’
  • Attach soles with adhesives or by stitching
  • Trim heels to shape
  • Stain soles, heels and edges before waxing and buffing
  • Polish the boot or shoe and add laces or other finishings
  • Inspect for quality and package up


You’ll need:

  • The ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • Knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
  • To be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • The ability to operate and control equipment
  • To be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

Becoming a Footwear Manufacturing Operative involves working in the production of footwear, which can encompass various tasks related to designing, cutting, sewing, assembling, and finishing shoes. While specific GCSE subjects are not typically mandatory for this career, certain subjects can provide foundational skills and knowledge that may be helpful in the field of manufacturing, such as:

  1. Design and Technology: This subject can provide you with practical skills related to design, materials, and manufacturing processes. It could be particularly useful if you’re interested in aspects of shoe design and construction.
  2. Mathematics: Basic mathematical skills are important in manufacturing for measurements, calculations, and understanding patterns and dimensions.
  3. Textiles or Art (if available): These subjects can help develop your understanding of fabrics, textures, and design concepts, which can be relevant in footwear manufacturing.
  4. Business Studies (Optional): Some understanding of business concepts can be useful if you’re interested in the broader aspects of the footwear industry, such as supply chain management or retail.
  5. Science (Materials Science): Although not a common GCSE subject, some knowledge of materials science can be beneficial in understanding the properties and characteristics of different materials used in footwear manufacturing.
  6. English: Effective communication skills are important for following instructions, documenting processes, and interacting with colleagues.
  7. IT or Computer Science (Optional): Basic computer skills can be valuable for working with digital design software, documentation, or inventory management systems.

Post School

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.

In the UK for example, courses include:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Footwear and Leather
  • Level 3 Diploma in Apparel, Footwear, Leather or Textile Production

You can do a footwear manufacturer intermediate apprenticeship.

This typically takes 12 months to complete as a mix of workplace learning and off-the-job study.

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 38-40 hours of work. You could be required to work shifts between 8am and 6pm



Career Path & Progression:

With experience 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.
  • Specialise in custom-made footwear, like luxury bespoke shoes, orthopaedic footwear, or historical and theatrical costume footwear.