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On course to become a shoemaker

Learning the shoemaker’s craft!

Monchique’s first shoemaking apprentice took his leave from his parents on Monday, 25th April, and set off for Austria. José Pedro Mira Nunes, aged 23, had applied to ECO123 for the shoemaking apprenticeship training project. In his application, he wrote about a longstanding family tradition dating back to the time of his great-grandfather, who was making shoes in Monchique in the 1960s. The jury selected him as the first of two candidates who were suitable for this training.

Having arrived at GEA in Schrems, five kilometres from the Czech border, after a three-day train journey, he started immersing himself in the subject in the form of a practical traineeship. Zé Pedro writes in his first e-mail:

“I’m loving working here. I have already done a little bit of everything in practical terms: from making shoes by hand to working on the machines, sewing, cutting the leather, etc. There’s no doubt that it’s hard work, but it’s really worth it! And it’s certainly an experience for strong personalities, new surroundings, new work. Learning something new every day, not to mention the fact that no one in the factory speaks English…there’s a lot to assimilate at the same time! That’s why learning German is very important! But I’m already acclimatised!”

A shoemaking apprenticeship in Austria generally lasts three years, and consists of a practical part – 36 weeks per year – and another, theoretical part, ten weeks per year – at the professional school, which gives instruction in parallel. You earn an apprentice’s salary of between 600 (in the first year) and almost 1,000 euros per month in the third year, and have six weeks’ holiday. The plan is that, with his certificate in his bag, Zé Pedro will return to Monchique in 2019. He then intends to open his own workshop, in order to continue the traditional craft of shoemaking in the village.

Author and Photo: Uwe Heitkamp

The jury from ECO123 and the “A Nossa Terra” and “Memo” associations have another apprenticeship to award, which interested persons can apply for.

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