Footwear manufacturers are also involved in training internal staff or young people who want to learn a trade

[On the cover: Santoni’s Academy of Excellence]

Investing in internal personnel, but also training up young people and, thus, making a profession that is not taught in schools and universities more attractive: footwear companies have kept up with the times and with the other fashion sectors, setting up internal Academies. At the centre of these organisations are always people and the creation of knowledge at the service of training and in the name of the changing economic and social scenarios that make it necessary to constantly realign skills, not least those in the digital and sustainability fields. Without underestimating the enormous problem of Italian companies that cannot find half of the personnel they are looking for. Creating an Academy, therefore, means that a company is thinking about the future and sharing know-how and skills, in some cases making use of partnerships with schools or university faculties. In the clothing sector there are some striking cases, which were ahead of their time: one above all, the Kiton High Tailoring School, which dates back to 2000 and is destined for a new generation of tailors to pass on the craft, with the aim not only of attracting young people to the factory, but also of thinking about the future of fashion. But there are also the cases of Bottega Veneta, Gucci with the Ecole de l’Amour, Tod’s with Re-Generation, Furla, and Prada, each with their own internal Academies, not to mention LVMH with its Istituto dei mestieri di eccellenza.

The Academies in the footwear sector

Santoni’s training course dedicated to the new generations is called the Academy of Excellence, with the aim of handing down the company’s know-how. A mission entrusted to the Masters of Beauty who share their experience in the Corridonia headquarters in the Marche region by teaching a trade that combines manual skill, attention to detail, creativity, and passion. The training course includes theoretical-practical lessons both in the classroom and in the craft workshops, for a duration of 4 weeks, at the end of which each participant receives the Apprentice of Beauty Diploma and has the opportunity to be selected to continue their career in the company. The disciplines that are taught within the Academy of Excellence are the most prestigious and authentic: the art of glazing, the unmistakable manual colouring technique of the shoe that distinguishes Santoni products; the art of stitching, prestigious hand stitching; the art of construction and assembly, the artisan assembly of the shoe; the art of finishing and detailing, the final cure and improvement. “My intent” – explains Giuseppe Santoni – “is to awaken in young people the love, passion, and dedication to a beautiful and noble profession, an art so important as to transform a manufacture into a luxury brand”.

Geox, on the other hand, has decided to invest in its employees and partners through the reorganisation of its activities and operating methods. Geox Innovation Digital Academy was, thus, born in 2021 to implement the digital skills of employees, created in collaboration with Cefriel-Politecnico di Milano and Skilla, with a dedicated faculty of 20 teachers. Topics such as digital transformation, future skills, and service design are on the table.

Since the artisan tradition is one of Golden Goose’s hallmarks, the brand has created the global HAUS platform which will host a phygital Academy (both digital and physical in the Marghera headquarters), in which skilled artisans will teach the Dream Makers of the future to pursue their creativity, providing them with the tools necessary to preserve and cultivate the art of the handmade. The brand will also open the doors of Manovia, a place dedicated to product innovation, lifecycle extension, and much more.

Thanks to the creation of an Archive, a Library, and an Auditorium inside, HAUS will make the heritage of the brand and its history available to people, allowing visitors to give space to their creativity by immersing themselves in the Golden universe.

Districts also have their own Academy

An example comes from Parabiago, where the first edition of the Academy of Confindustria Alto Milanese was born at the end of 2022 with the Course for Finishers for the Footwear Industry. The training initiative, realised in collaboration with Synergie Italia, involved a number of footwear companies with the common objective of keeping the Legnano footwear district alive. Following a survey on the professional figures most in demand by companies in the area, it emerged that there actually was a need for profiles, from the more traditional to the emerging ones, which are difficult to find on the market. The programme, aimed at students, unemployed and unemployable persons selected by the Synergie branches in the Sempione district of Legnano, Busto Arsizio and Saronno, consists of 100 hours of theoretical lessons and 80 hours of practical lessons. To date, 24 young people have been trained in the two editions of the course and are working in six of the twenty companies in the district that have joined the project, including Parabiago Collezioni and Fratelli Rossetti. A further course for splicers is being prepared and will start in September.