Inspiration for a greener tanning industry from the Arzignano tanning district.

What does a Green Leather Manager do? I still do not know. Let’s investigate what the students think.

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It was something lacking and now, here it is – a two-year post-diploma course that prepares skilled workers in designing, transforming and innovating leather in the pursuit of sustainable tanning has been created and launched last September 2017 at the Galileo Galilei Technical Institute in Arzignano.

It is called the ITS specialization in chemistry and leather technology, and was established under an agreement signed between the Leather District, the SSIP Stazione Sperimentale Industria delle Pelli (Experimental Station of Leather Industry), the Galilei Institute and the Cosmo Foundation with the support of the Veneto Region. It will manifest the commitment of greenLIFE, with the participation of professors  from the sponsoring companies in a series of seminars on various research project lines.

But what do the students think? The first 24 students were interviewed about their assessment of the course, just a few months after the course started. Ten of them replied anonymously. The involvement of professors from industry has been viewed very positively, and has been acknowledged with gratitude in more than one answer, as also the interest shown by entrepreneurs and business professionals towards them. Many youngsters aspire to greater practicality and hope to associate with practical experimentation in their classrooms, even if only partially, which will accompany and sustain the theoretical lessons, and might also constitute the preparatory stage.

The need for  greater coherence in the planning of the programme has been emphasised, primarily in terms of the preparatory character of the general chemical subjects learned, compared to the specialised sectoral ones. There is a strong desire to take advantage of the internships and to be supported by tutors (Of the 2000 hours total course duration, 800 are intended for the internship), who should  also be available to share their experience and be able to explain the ‘meaning’ of tannery phases and the links between theory and practice. Expectations are high for the working future: many aspire to become production managers, and they would like the initial start to be at a good level; they want a stimulating environment and fear ending up parked ‘behind a machine’. If the work does not turn out as they expect, they are quite ready to change sectors.

What does the Green Leather Manager do? At the moment this seems unclear, but the course is at an incipient stage. In summary, 10% of the respondents did not find the course satisfactory, as against  double that percentage (20%) who found  it very good, whereas the majority considered it generally positive. “It seems to me a good result,”  comments Guido Zilli, among the professors  responsible for sustainability and human resources development at Conceria Dani,  “considering that the course is in its first edition and is extremely innovative in the type of subjects and the teachers.”

Students gave important indications on how to improve the course, and their opinions will certainly be taken into consideration,” comments prof. Roberto Peripoli. “The path of the ITS Galilei has just begun,”  says Paolo Gurisatti, president of SSIP,  “and it is the first concrete initiative after years in which no one invested in the school. Today we have the resources for new machinery, laboratories, tutors and for the preparation of teachers coming from industry. There are still some inevitable administrative problems, but the course is entering the operational phase. And as early as next February, students can ‘put their hands’ on leather hides and do some practice. Of course, some chemistry must be assimilated beforehand, as well as a little economics, otherwise they will not have the skills necessary to perform the managerial role that they aspire to do“.

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