The Leather Conservation Centre spoke to Jack, a student studying for the Certificate of Higher Education in Leather Technology at the University of Northampton. We covered how and why he got into leatherwork and how his degree experience has been affected by Covid-19.
1. How did you get into the leather industry?
“Growing up, my dad worked in the industry and actually studied at Northampton College. When I couldn’t find a job in the field I originally trained in, computer science, I started to work in hospitality. Lockdown hit and I was furloughed which gave me an opportunity to think about other career pathways and I decided to apply for the Leather Technology course at Northampton.”
2. How has lockdown affected your studies?
“Because we can’t go into the tannery at the moment we’re using online materials. We’re making the most of remote learning by studying a lot of leather technology theory, which will be really useful once we can safely get back into the tannery and apply our theoretical learning into real life practice.”
3.How employable are you with this degree?
“100% employable, as the degree teaches you such a niche set of skills it makes you a unique candidate when applying for jobs. The range of skills you learn equip you for multiple different career pathways after graduating such as tannery management, leather sales or chemical management. It also gives you the opportunity to travel as it’s a global industry, depending on the Covid-19 situation I’m hoping to complete an internship at a tannery in Italy this summer.”
4. Why do you love leather?
“It has a nostalgic smell! And the industry is filled with people who are passionate about what they do.”
5.What’s the best and worst part of working with leather?
“The best part is turning a waste product into something sustainable and with longevity that you know will last years. The hardest part is dealing with the misrepresentation of the industry. Leather is almost always the byproduct of the meat industry and the total value of the skin of an animal is 2%, yet this 2% is such an invaluable resource to multiple industries such as fashion and automotive leather. The positive elements of the industry are often overlooked.
6. How do you like studying at Northampton?
“Having completed a computer science degree previously, it felt very impersonal in comparison to the course at Northampton. It sounds cheesy, but at Northampton it’s like a family. I also enjoy how you cover a lot of different areas of the leather industry and it enables you to personalise your course content to suit you and your interests.”
7. How big is the course?
“This year there are 12 of us, and that’s the beautiful thing about it. People from all corners of the world come to study here in Northampton because the degree is so well renowned. This means there’s a great variety of people, but with the benefits of being taught in a small class.”
8. Finally, what sort of funding opportunities can you access if you want to learn about leather?
“You can get funding from Student Finance England, and the Leathersellers grant can help to partially fund degrees which is really invaluable and makes it a level playing field for anyone hoping to pursue a career in the leather industry.”
For more information about this degree and other similar courses at Northampton University, please visit their website here.
Want to find out more about bursaries and other funding options? Information about the Leathersellers grant can be found here.