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When the University of Northampton began having career days some years ago a few industry veterans would be wheeled out to tell the gathered students that the industry still exists and is doing well. It was an important point since at that time neither the University staff outside of the leather school nor the senior employees in Northampton local government actually believed it.
They had seen the huge decline in the 20th century of tanning and shoemaking in the region; indeed some had been made redundant from it. They were of view that leather making was and should remain a sunset industry.
Yet, just last week the Institute of Creative Leather Technology (the Leather School's new name to emphasise its links to design, fashion and marketing courses) held its latest career day, now renamed as an Industry Engagement Day. To a packed lecture room, executives from top German, Dutch and British Companies came to explain why a life in leather offered a truly rewarding career. Many were also alumni and discussed their individual paths through the industry as well as the opportunities within their companies.
The companies present went beyond the normal tanneries and chemical companies, though they were there in force. Aston Martin turned up with one of their cars, upholstered with Bridge of Weir Leather, and talked to students about a wide range of career options from working on the cars to associated and licensed products. Church shoes and Burberry were also present.
One or two companies had brought their leaflets from the Cotance "Leather is my job" campaign. This was a clever concept and would do well to be taken wider. Coming on the back of it is the constant need to discuss and explain the industry. Answering questions from interested parties is one of the best ways of educating consumers and creating a buzz about a material and an industry.
We need more Industry Engagement Days.
Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood
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