D&T – The Demise of Skilled Manufacture

Brooks Saddles

[stag_intro]Last week Craig Whittet talked about how skilled labour has been on the down for the last few decades.[/stag_intro] This, he said, was due to people that would normally have taken up a manufacturing apprenticeship when they left school are now choosing to take up the easier and more comfortable option of a service job (e.g., working at a call centre).

Surely that is understandable when the minimum wage for an apprentice under 19 is £2.68 but the minimum wage for a non-apprentice is £3.72. Doesn’t this devalue the skills of the men and women that have been working in skilled manufacture for many years. At Brooks Saddles for instance, it takes 3 days to make one single saddle and the company relies on the skills of its workers for methods like chamfering and riveting. You would hope high end manufacturing skills were valued more as it would seem a shame for these techniques to be lost. Brooks Saddles was bought by Selle Royal of Italy in 2002, they realised that the hipster brigade were buying old brooks saddles for much more that the new ones. Soon, the italians boosted the images of the brooks brand. They showed of the tradition and Englishness of the brand, turning it into a luxury good, and valuing the workers of its factory more.

Craig also gave products such as a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes their price in Chinese Yuan as well as Pound Sterling to show the difference in earnings. A top end heel would cost £875 but thats 8,750 CNY which is an average 3 months wages. However, top of the range pair of Trickers brogues would cost you £6,000 thats 60,000 CNY – thats 2 years average wages in China. China is starting to follow the Wests attitude to skilled labour and more people are going in to service jobs.

So is this change inevitable?  I think so, as more people look for a comfortable way of life, manufacturing jobs will be pushed to the poorer, less developed countries. The problem is, there will always be a requirement for people in manufacturing, so why not make it more valued and pay more for higher quality materials and people. Like Brooks, a lot of old stuffy companies need to value their workers and promote that or they will be made bankrupt.

[stag_button url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9w-y24Waz4″ style=”light-blue” size=”small” type=”round” target=”_self”]Brooks Saddles – The Blues of an Icon[/stag_button] 

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