The luxury market never seems to stand still. Worldwide, the sector is worth 1.2 billion Euro and continues to grow at a rate of 5% a year. In Italy it accounts for 5% of GDP and consumers all over the world are well aware of the quality of high-end Italian products: 8 in 10 consider Italy to be a leading country in high-quality manufacturing in almost every sector. Because of this, our manufacturing know-how is a key part of our heritage which should be protected and promoted with every means at our disposal.
“And yet within 5 years, more than 50,000 jobs will be vacant in the professional/technical sector, which can’t be refilled because today too few young people are studying to become ‘tradesmen and women of the future’”. This is according to Stefania Lazzaroni, General Manager of Altagamma, a foundation that has, since 1992, brought companies operating in high-end cultural and creative fields—recognised as true staples of Italian style across the world—together.
“Today”, continues Lazzaroni, “there is a real sense of urgency affecting companies in the luxury sector, as they need to find people with professional and technical skills”. But their search is becoming increasingly difficult. Specific professions and skills required vary from sector to sector and, quite often, from company to company. Generally speaking, however, the issue lies in technical and professional training, which must allow the skills and expertise of tradesmen and women to be transferred, while remaining up-to-date with the radical changes coinciding with our transition to industry 4.0, which, due to new technologies available, will lead to certain jobs disappearing and others that are different in nature being created”.
Consumers all over the world are well aware of the quality of high-end Italian products: 8 in 10 consider Italy to be a leading country in high-quality manufacturing
Just think, vocational schools in Italy currently train around 10,000 graduates, compared to more than 800,000 in Germany, 240,000 in France and 140,000 in Spain. This is also a reason why we are seeing a serious gap between the supply and demand for graduates trained for industry-4.0 professions: In the next 5 years, there will be 280,000 super-technicians that will be of no use to manufacturing.
According to Lazzaroni, “It’s difficult to face these figures, considering that youth unemployment has reached 42% in Italy”. How do we bridge the gap? The General Manager of Altagamma states that “the first thing we need to work on is raising awareness among young people and their families about these issues and repositioning these professions to inspire new vocational aspirations in young people”.
Quite often, families are not prepared to send their kids to vocational institutes. So our aim is to re-establish the importance of trades
The luxury sector in Italy is very diverse and can be divided into 8 different categories: Fashion, Accessories, Jewellery and Watches, Hospitality, Food & Drink, Design, Automotive, and Yachts. “Goldsmiths, tailors, product design experts and hospitality experts” continues Lazzaroni, "are all professions that require a range of skills and lateral thinking”. Young people that decide to pursue this type of career start off with a basic salary that varies from 1000 to 1200 Euro a month: “But after a few years”, according to Lazzaroni, “salaries reach up to 3000 Euro a month”.
With these figures in mind, encouraging young people to pursue these fields of study is absolutely essential: According to Altagamma’s General Manager, “quite often, families are not prepared to send their kids to vocational institutes. So our aim is to re-establish the importance of these professions—much like what has happened with professional chefs—and make career paths clearer”.
Culturally speaking, continuing to strengthen these aspects is a strategic issue for Italy. “We have to add more feathers to our cap”, says Lazzaroni, “we are the beating heart of manufacturing and yet we do not have adequate educational courses for our young people yet. We have to start valuing these institutes again and making paths clearer: we need schools aimed at training people to work in the luxury sector (in Naples, links to high-quality tailoring are being established thanks to the commitment of the newly formed Isaia Foundation, ed), but this is an undertaking to be carried out with both the public and private sector together. Companies such as Brunello Cucinelli and Illy Caffè have already established their own internal professional schools”.
Photos: all images have been taken from the “Altagamma Italian Contemporary Excellence” photography exhibition