CWE studies watchmaker school needs

CWE studies watchmaker school needs An advisory committee for the watch and jewelry industries’ “Coalition for Watchmaker Education” (CWE) is preparing recommendations on the types of industry support needed by the nation’s watchmaker schools. The committee will present its report for approval and action to the CWE in September, and to the American Watch Association’s (AWA) board of directors in October.

The CWE was formed by AWA in late 2000 to deal with the growing shortage of qualified watchmakers in the United States, a problem for jewelers, repair shops, and watch suppliers. Unofficial CWE data indicate that the country needs 150 to 200 new watchmakers annually to stem the decline. But the nation’s 13 watch training schools and programs graduate less than half that number each year.

The advisory committee, formed July 16, includes officials and technicians from Rolex (U.S.), a leader in providing U.S. watch training; the watch conglomerates of the Swatch Group, the Richemont (North America) and LVMH (USA); the American Watch Institute (AWI), the world’s largest professional horological organization, and-for the schools’ perspective-the head of the watch training program at Oklahoma State University, Okmulgee, Okla.

The committee will review all the schools and draft “recommendations on how each could benefit from industry support, be that financial aid, equipment like workbenches, faculty assistance, industry people to monitor testing, scholarships, advertising help, or whatever else,” Toby Collado, AWA’s executive director, told JCK. The schools “know what they each need, but no one has put that together into a final plan.”

The support won’t be the same for each, noted Collado. “We must ensure that money [provided] is well-spent, identify those schools with the best potential and develop public relations and adverting packages that any one of them can use.”

The end goal, says Collado, is to “get more people interested in watchmaking as a career and more students enrolled [in U.S. watch training program].”

The “Coalition for Watchmaker Education” was formed in November 2000 at Piaget’s New York City office, in a meeting organized by Collado, to address the urgent need for more U.S. watchmakers. The AWI first spotlighted the problem at its July 2000 Industry Advisory Board meeting. Then, following JCK’s October story, the AWA decided to coordinate an effort to “channel [watch and jewelry industry] resources in the most effective way to assure more and better trained watchmakers in the years ahead,” says Robert Filotei, AWA chairman, president of Piaget/Officine Panerai USA and chairman of the ad hoc coalition. Founding members include AWA, AWI, the Watchmakers of Switzerland Information Center (WOSIC), representing the Swiss industry in the United States; Jewelers of America (JA), the largest association of U.S. jewelers; and a number of leading watch firms, such as Rolex, Piaget, Patek Philippe, and the Swatch Group.

Since its formation in November, the CWE has gathered data about U.S. watchmakers, studied the idea of industrywide certification for watchmakers, and looked at ways to attract young people to watchmaking, using public relations or advertising materials.

One Coalition project, though, is on hold indefinitely. That is a proposal to modify the 3,000-hour course, the industry standard, of The Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program (WOSTEP)-the Neuchatel, Switzerland, training center of the Swiss watch industry-into basic and advanced programs for U.S. students, to make watch training more attractive to them. That plan was championed by Peter Laetsch, then-president of the Swiss watch industry’s information center in the U.S. and chairman of CWE’s education committee. However, in late June, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry permanently closed WOSIC, and Laetsch is no longer involved with the Coalition. Though the Federation said it would “work closer” with AWA, its involvement, if any, with CWE projects was uncertain at press time. Also, there has been no further comment or follow-up by WOSTEP on the proposal to modify its program for the U.S. market.

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