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Leather Tanning and Finishing Worker Job Description, Career as a Leather Tanning and Finishing Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training High school diploma

Average Salary $50,000 per year

Job Outlook Good

Basic Job Description

Leather tanning and finishing workers prepare leather hides of animals to manufacture clothing, shoes or other products made out of the material. They work with the hide to dry it out, stretch it, remove any excess animal hair, smooth it, and spray on a finish using chemicals that will turn the leather into the desired color. Leather workers also work in shoe factories to cut leather and seam or glue it together for shoes. They will cut, seam, shape and apply adhesives and holes to shoes. There are many other factories that design specific leather goods such as handbags, coats and other clothing, and each factory uses specific machines, chemicals and dyes to turn the product from animal hide to a soft, smooth and firm leather product.

Education and Training Requirements

A high school diploma or equivalent is required to work as a leather tanning and finishing worker. Most skills can be taught on the job, such as use of machinery, proper use of dyes and chemicals, and sewing pieces of leather together.

On the job training to become a leather tanning and finishing worker often takes about a year to successfully learn all the trades and effectively turn a piece of animal hide into a piece of quality leather. Many companies will hire someone as an apprentice to work under the head leather worker and learn details of how everything is operated. Experience working in a factory setting or with machine operations is often preferred, as working with leather involves a great deal of machines, precision and detail.

Getting the Job

The ideal candidate for working as a leather tanning and finishing worker will have experience working with machinery and in a factory setting. Most workers will have worked as an apprentice under a professional worker to learn the process from start to finish.

To successfully turn a piece of animal hide into a quality leather product, a worker must possess manual dexterity skills, extreme precision, an eye for detail, the ability to successfully complete a product in a specific amount of time to deliver to a customer, and be able to quickly change or redevelop a product at the sudden request of a customer.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Someone who trains to work as a leather tanning and finishing worker can first start off working in a factory to create pieces of leather. They will create the pieces in mass quantities to ship off to shoe, handbag or jacket companies that will then take the leather and turn them into clothing or other goods.

After a worker has gained experience turning a piece of hide into leather and dying it to a specific color, they can advance to a career of working in a specific factory. These factories will need workers who know how to work with leather to stretch, sew, and apply finishes in order to make custom products. Products made in these factories include handbags, shoes, boots, and harnesses. Workers in this field also learn how to stamp leather with products and machines that will indent letters or logos into the hide without causing excess damage.

Some leather workers eventually develop enough experience to open a leather shop of their own. Some may open up a shop to press and dye leather to sell to clothing companies, while others may open a shop to create leather goods such as shoes or handbags. There are many career and business opportunities available for someone who works with leather goods.

The need for workers in the field of leather finishing is on the rise, although some companies selling leather goods are looking for alternatives to their products that are not made from animal hide. Due to this demand, many leather works are being hired by companies to help develop a product that looks and feels like leather but does not use animal products.

Working Conditions and Environment

Leather tanning and finishing workers usually work indoors, in a factory type of environment that uses heavy machinery to turn raw animal hide into leather. They will need to know how to operate each piece of machinery in order to prevent damage to the hide or even cause personal injury. There are also chemicals involved in the finishing and tanning process, so it is important for workers to know how to handle chemicals without inhaling dangerous fumes or tarnishing the leather.

Due to the heavy machines and chemicals involved in the leather making process, many workers are required to wear protective eyewear and gloves when working in specific departments. Workers who focus more on sewing leather together and applying hardware and glues work in a calmer environment that involves less heavy machinery, but more manual dexterity and precision.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary for a leather tanning and finishing worker is about $50,000 per year. Salary depends on the specific role of a worker. Someone who works in the factory turning raw animal hide into a piece of leather will make less than someone who takes leather pieces and turns it into shoes or leather jackets. The design aspect of leather tanning and finishing pays more than the field of turning material into leather.

Where to Go for More Information

National Leather Association
P.O. Box 423
Blacklick, OH 43004
(780) 454-1992

American Leather Chemists Association
1314 50th Street, Suite 103
Lubbock, TX 79412
(806) 744-1785

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production