As the percentage of high school students going on to college continues to decline in the US, vocational training programs become a vital alternative.  Chicago School of Shoemaking & Leather Arts is poised to help fill the gap and to offer an opportunity to students who may not choose or thrive, in a traditional academic setting.

Without official apprenticeship programs, and fewer hands on fabrication training alternatives, there is a significant part of our population who are floundering when it comes to options for rewarding employment. With so many hand-skilled jobs being performed overseas, we have diminished our access to skilled labor streams. In response, we at CSOS&LA have built a curriculum to train interested individuals in the technical and physical art of leather working. Our program utilizes industrial sewing machines, and we’ve added elective options that include upholstery, shoe repair, accessories and an intro to shoemaking. Employment options are possible in the industries of fashion, theater, shoe repair, upholstery, and more. We are also training those interested in self-employment with entrepreneurial aspirations, to develop skills and products that will support themselves as artisans and business people.

Since its inception in 2011, CSOS has welcomed over 10,000 students taking an array of classes from basic leather working to advanced footwear construction.  Our students find that working with their hands adds a satisfying component to their lives. While we will continue offering our hobbyist track, we want to create a labor pipeline for the numerous existing industries and to support the growing “Made in the USA” culture.

Along with a robust curriculum of hands on training, our program includes necessary guidance in best employee practices, communication in the workplace and, for those with an entrepreneurial mindset, the basics of business finance. Upon completion of the program, all students take-away a resume listing their achievements and expertise as well as an actual portfolio of work. Ample opportunity is given to learn and refine skills, and we issue certificates based on merit, with both peer review and industry experts reviewing students’ work.  We are establishing high standards for our students and will do our best to help them meet those.

With 42 years of experience as a custom shoemaker and leather worker, CSOS founder, Sara McIntosh heads our program and continues to be the lead instructor. Our certificate program also includes a local and national roster of guest educators.

The certificate program has been designed to support our desire bring back skilled laborers to American industry, to support high standards in leatherwork, and to work with individuals who will thrive in a vocational setting. We are decidedly mission driven, with a keen desire to help people achieve their dreams while giving them a marketable skillset. Our hands on training provides career choices and allows for job satisfaction so evidently lacking in our culture at this time.


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