Fashion follows function for the waxing workwear industry. And as the skilled trade market experiences growth, companies such as Wolverine are preparing apropos product and launching initiatives that reflect emerging changes and trends impacting the workwear segment.
Through strategic collaborations and partnerships, Wolverine has been a leading voice advocating for the skilled trades for nearly a decade. By working with organizations such as SkillsUSA, unCommon Construction, and YouthBuild, to name a few, Wolverine has been promoting careers in the trades, as well as partnerships, to raise awareness to the value and opportunity of traditional and non-traditional trades careers.
Here, Scott Schoessel, Vice President of Global Marketing at Wolverine, talks to Fairchild Studio about factors driving change in the workwear market, the brand’s dedication to partnerships that promote people in the skilled training space, and what Wolverine is working on next.
Fairchild Studio: Tell us Wolverine’s view of the skilled trade market. What is the state of skilled trade in the footwear industry, and what are some of the driving factors influencing changes and current trends?
Scott Schoessel: Wolverine launched Project Bootstrap several years ago to celebrate and support those choosing to go into the skilled trades. For the last few years there has been a significant gap between the number of trade jobs available and the number of skilled workers to fill those jobs. This gap has created one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. economy today. With enrollment in trade programs rising, we’re bullish on the growth trends of the work and occupational safety footwear categories and our leadership position within those categories.
As we think about evolving our product offerings, we are focused on the expanding and unique needs of those currently in the workforce or joining in the future. While our products are grounded in best-in-class comfort technology, we are also expanding into women’s specific and occasion-based offerings. We also look to incorporate inspiration from other footwear categories such as athletic and outdoor into our designs as we push the envelope on innovation to support this essential industry and its consumer base.
Fairchild Studio: How is Wolverine harnessing the power of partnership to protect and promote people in the skilled training space?
S.S.: We’ve been aggressive in utilizing collaborations and partnerships to drive awareness surrounding the skilled trades gap. Our efforts have led us to like-minded partners that are truly making a difference in elevating and providing accessible opportunities for students to pursue a career in the skilled trades. We work with great teams at organizations such as SkillsUSA, FFA, unCommon Construction, Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation, and YouthBuild to promote a career in the trades and provide financial support for these critical roles.
Our partnerships with Ram Trucks, Old Rip Van Winkle, Metallica, and others have drawn tremendous consumer and press attention to the trades – generating 10 billion earned media impressions last year alone. We’re focused on storytelling that brings a new level of awareness to traditional and non-traditional trades and showcases the journey of these workers. The ultimate goal is to bring accurate information and awareness of a career in the trades, as there are still many misconceptions out there on this path – from how to get started, the cost to pursue, or what a salary looks like.
Fairchild Studio: What are some of Wolverine’s proudest accomplishments that relate to the skilled trade sector?
S.S.: We’ve been fortunate to develop relationships with some remarkable people and organizations over the years. Our most meaningful moments have come from hearing from those we impact. We consistently receive notes and messages from those we have been able to support. Recently we received a handwritten note from a SkillsUSA student that benefitted from our financial support and traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with government officials about enhancing support of careers and technical education to ultimately answer the skills gap. It was rewarding for our team to know that we helped fund a life-changing experience for this student who will be a long-term advocate and member of the skilled trades industry.
Fairchild Studio: Why, in Wolverine’s view, is there a labor shortage at a time when trade school enrollment is high?
S.S.: There is definite opportunity to further drive awareness surrounding the issue. Enrollment rates for skilled trade programs are increasing as students rethink college and begin to recognize the security in a trade school education, but the enrollment has not spiked enough yet to offset the skills gap that’s been an issue for years. To help bridge this gap, it’s essential to educate the next generation about opportunities in the skilled trades, which is a core pillar of our Project Bootstrap platform.
Fairchild Studio: What’s next for Wolverine?
S.S.: Our focus remains centered on our Project Bootstrap purpose platform and how we inspire and celebrate those in the skilled trades. As we look at the evolution of the trades and those who are pursuing this path, we’re dialed in on how we can continue to build awareness and provide equitable access for everyone to pursue these critical careers.
Wolverine’s Trending Workwear Styles & Stats
As Wolverine analyzes data from the workwear sector, the brand kicks work boots into high gear.
Workwear trends well for Wolverine – and as consumers continue to seek footwear inspired by the work boot aesthetic, the brand shares its standout styles and statistics that are shaping the emergent category that Wolverine has been leading since its inception in 1883.
But Wolverine is quick to note that there are plenty of misconceptions people have about pursuing a trades career. Scott Schoessel, Vice President of Global Marketing at Wolverine, said that between published survey results and its own research and focus groups – inclusive of a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Wolverine last year, with a panel of 2,000 American high school students – the hesitation to move forward in the trade space is largely due to a gap in information.
“We’ve found that 45 percent of young adults feel that there is not enough education about the skilled trades, so they are simply unaware of the jobs and salaries available, and more than half cite ‘I don’t know enough about it’ as why they’ve not considered enrolling. Similarly, 45 percent of young adults feel you have to go to college for a successful career,” Schoessel said.
“Overall, the lack of education and awareness of the skilled trades as a viable option to lead a successful career still remains. We’re working to build accurate awareness amongst young consumers and elevating the reality that you don’t need to have a 4-year college degree to make a successful and rewarding living.”
Schoessel explained that the brand has witnessed a continued trend of athletic styles inspiring work boots, while trendier looks, such as wedges and moc toe boots, have also grown in popularity. “The consumer demands something that is functional and comfortable but does not necessarily want to sacrifice style,” he said. “Our best-selling franchise, the Floorhand, continues to be a top style for us. It’s priced right, looks great, and meets the performance needs of our customer.”
And Wolverine’s silhouettes – with its DuraShocks and UltraSpring proprietary midsole and outsole comfort technologies – are continuous best sellers in the category, Schoessel noted. “This technology paired with essential safety features that offer the protection our consumers need remain as top focuses for us to deliver season over season.”