The European footwear industry (direct footwear production) is composed by about 15.000 companies and 300.000 workers. Spain and Portugal together produce about one third of the total EU volume of leather shoes. The volume of leather shoes produced in the European Union, decreased by 42%, from 758 million pairs in 2000 to 442 millions in 2009. The total turnover lost was only about 20%, from 16 billion Euro to 12.6 billion Euro so the decrease has been smaller, if compared to volume. This is coherent with the progressive upgrade of European footwear to higher value added segments. The leading reputation of the European footwear industry is due to the high level of competitiveness based on the superior quality of the product and a very high capacity for innovation. The manufacturers of luxury and top level shoes presenting high fashion content still produce in EU territory. However, the trade deficit in the footwear sector has more than doubled in five years to €7.0 billion (EU-27, 2007). “Reasons contributing to the large trade deficit are the growing difficulty of EU industry to compete with countries with low labor costs and less regulation and the strength of the Euro” (EU, 2011).
To reduce the trade deficit but keeping the high level of added-value and increase the volume of sales there is the need to train staff in several areas like innovation, entrepreneurship and new design tools. In a global economy where enterprise sustainability and employability is uncertain it requires the best knowledge, application of good practices and the mastery of the most advanced methodologies in design and enterprise management to survive. However, most footwear companies are small and medium sized. For instance, Portuguese and Spanish companies employ 13-16 workers on average. For this reason most of the companies cannot create an internal training department and are very much dependent on external offers. New vocational training methods, using new technological solutions, with certified qualifications (like ECVET) are required for just-in-time and recognized qualifications. Assessing the web sites of the major European and International organizations (INESCOP, UITIC, CEDDEC, EVS, EURIS) it is clear that there are still relatively few online training programmes.
EU, 2011, External Dimension of the Footwear Sector, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/footwear/external-dimension/index_en.htm