Leather workers produce a wide range of leather goods. Goods are mass-produced in factories or made by traditional methods in craft workshops. Some craftworkers specialise as saddlers, making and repairing leather riding goods.
Also known as
- Shoe and Leather Worker
Video: - Mark: Saddler
Leather workers use ready prepared hides to make goods such as wallets, belts, gloves, luggage, footwear, coats and some items of furniture. In many cases, leather craftworkers design the articles that they make.
Stitching of leather may be done by hand or using a machine. Leather can also be joined together using rivets or glue. The finished product is decorated using methods such as painting, dyeing and stamping. A variety of machine and hand tools are used to carry out tasks such as cutting, stitching and adding fittings, like handles and buckles.
A specialised branch of craft leatherwork is saddlery. Saddlers make and repair leather riding goods, such as saddles, bridles and reins. These tasks tend to be done by hand, mainly because riding equipment is often 'tailor-made'.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
In this job, you will need:
- To work quickly and accurately.
- Good hand skills.
- Physical strength and stamina, depending on which duties you carry out.
If you run your own business, you should:
- Have good financial awareness.
- Be fairly creative and able to assess the types of goods that will sell well.
- Have marketing and negotiating skills for dealing with suppliers and obtaining business.
You might also need to be able to operate equipment, such as heavy grade sewing machines. For close work, good eyesight is necessary.
This job might not be suitable for people who have skin conditions, such as eczema, or breathing complaints, such as asthma.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Leather workers earn in the range of £13,000 - £15,500, rising to £18,000 - £24,000 with experience.
Craft leather workers' incomes will depend on sales.
Hours of work
Leather workers usually work a 39-hour week, which may include shift work and work at weekends. Overtime and part-time work may be available.
Where could I work?
Leather workers may work for firms that mass-produce items in factory premises, or for small companies, workshops and one-person businesses that make articles using traditional craft techniques.
Opportunities for leather workers occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK. However, the main centres are the South East, the East Midlands, the West Midlands (for saddlery), the West Country, Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Scottish lowlands.
Opportunities occur for outworkers to work from home, with the firm supplying any necessary equipment. Some leather craftworkers become self-employed.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on all the major job boards, on Universal Jobmatch, and at Jobcentre Plus.
Entry Routes and Training
You might be able to enter this job without any qualifications. Practical ability is often thought of as more important by employers. However, it 's always a good idea to have some GCSEs or equivalent. Subjects like English, Art and Design, Maths, Design and Technology (Resistant Materials), and Manufacturing would be useful.
To become a saddler, you'll probably need to have studied saddlery or leatherwork at a level equivalent to GCSEs.
An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also a great place to start.
Training for this career is often on-the-job but there are a large number of courses related to leather available throughout the UK. Many courses focus on the craft side of the job, but most will have elements of interest to people wishing to go into all areas of leather work.
Members of the Society of Master Saddlers may also offer apprenticeships and training. Apprenticeships last for four years and are usually for school leavers. There is also a Saddlery Millennium Apprenticeship Scheme, leading to City & Guilds qualifications.
The Society of Master Saddlers' website is a good place to look for training opportunities within that area of the leather industry.
Capel Manor College in London offers a number of courses in saddlery and hand sewn leathercraft. These courses can be used as a route into saddlery, or can be used to progress to higher education courses in leather technology.
The Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT), based at the University of Northampton, runs courses in leather studies, to develop knowledge and skills further. Short courses are also run by the BLC Leather Technology Centre.
Various other relevant courses are available through training providers throughout the UK.
Progression could be to supervisory positions.
You don't usually need any qualifications for entry to this type of work, as practical ability is often thought of as more important. However, GCSEs or equivalent, in subjects like English, Art and Design, Manufacturing, Design and Technology (Resistant Materials), and Maths would be useful.
To enter one of the City & Guilds saddlery courses, you'll need experience of working with leather.
To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C or above, possibly including English and Maths.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Applicants with skills gained in the manufacturing industry, eg, at craft level, have an advantage.
A relevant background can be in arts, crafts and design. Some artistic ability is needed for certain jobs.
Some people enter this career via a Fashion and Textiles Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
- 21% of people in this career are self-employed.
- 28% work part-time.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
City & Guilds
Address: 1 Giltspur Street, London EC1A 9DD
Tel: 020 7294 2468
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Creative & Cultural Skills
Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts
Address: 44a Pentonville Road, Islington, London N1 9BY
Tel: 020 7806 2500
BLC Leather Technology Centre Ltd
Address: Kings Park Road, Moulton Park, Northampton NN3 6JD
Tel: 01604 679999
Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT)
Tel: 01604 735500
Leather Wise Ltd
Address: Bland’s Yard, Church Street, Stanwick, Northamptonshire NN9 6PS
Tel: 01933 622386
Capel Manor College
Address: Bullsmoor Lane, Enfield, Middlesex EN1 4RQ
Tel: 0845 6122122
Saddlery Training Centre
Address: 3H Stanley Court, Glenmore Business Park, Telford Road, Churchfields, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP2 7GH
Tel: 01722 341144
Society of Master Saddlers (SMS)
Address: Green Lane Farm, Stonham, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 5DS
Tel: 01449 711642
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844