What would Made in Italy be without craftsmanship? Knowing how to make things touches fundamental aspects of the human being, the economy and social life. It is time to reevaluate (seriously and without rhetoric) the craft trades

Makers is the title of a science fiction novel written by Cory Doctorow in 2009. The protagonists, two artisans of the future who invent and work tirelessly locked up in a disused mall, try to fight – the new David 4.0 against Goliath – big corporations.

The book did not win Pulitzer, nor did it become a bestseller, but it put the theme of work and innovation centered on the individual, on doing practice and on the concept of community at the center of the debate.


It is good. Because, as the greatest scholar of the subject Richard Sennett says, the act of making touches two fundamental aspects of the human being. On the one hand, dominating a socially recognized profession allows us to live with satisfaction within a community. On the other hand, in communities that produce value by offering quality, know-how is central to the economic progress of the communities themselves.

Why then, especially in Italy, are so few young people directed towards this kind of profession?

I believe that an awareness campaign is needed to promote high craftsmanship. Which is not only the traditional one, tied to the hands, but also the digital one and the virtuosity in the use of industrial machinery, says Stefano Micelli, professor of Economics and Business Management at the Ca Foscari University and author of Futuro artigiano (edit by Marsilio). Because not only the survival of Made in Italy is at stake, but also that important role of social catalyst that work has: the dignified job, which creates value and makes those who do it proud. If we are able to overcome the idea of consumption that marks our economy, we will be able to renew social and community ties in an original way.

We therefore need to talk about quality, to explain its added value on an economic but also a social level. In Italy there is a very explicit link between work and competitiveness because the sectors we pride ourselves on with Made in Italy continue to maintain an original link between technology and traditional know-how, continues Micelli. The pride of making is a key resource for many of the fashion, furniture, as well as mechanical and agri-food companies. This specific, typically Italian factor must be constantly balanced with the opportunities offered by technological innovation.

And it is on the word innovation that it is necessary to dwell on it since for many it is in direct contrast with the know-how, what is traditionally associated with the craftsman who uses his hands. Obviously, the craftsmanship that has made Made in Italy great is not only that, but also the whole world of small companies that are hyper-specialized in high-quality manufacturing, including industrial ones, and capable of creating, experimenting and innovating by exporting all over the world.

Much has been changing in recent months in the relationship between the world of making and digital. The lockdown has forced companies to make a qualitative leap on this front. With social distancing technologies have become essential: those who have been able to push in both directions (more attention to technology and more attention to work) have shown that they can grow even in difficulties. And more and more entrepreneurs and administrators are asking themselves how to combine the need for meaningful professions, that is, in addition to giving us a living, they add meaning to our existence as social animals, and that of a country that has always lived on know-how and which is now ahead of a turning point.

“It is essential to accelerate this push. And to do this there are two priorities”, says Micelli. “A new idea of school, more capable of supporting new generation artisans and makers. And a new idea of the city, which contemplates the spaces of manufacturing activity alongside those of culture and training. If we are able to promote the qualities of doing and overcome the idea of consumption that marks our economy, we will be able to renew social and community ties as well as industry in an original way ".

To give dignity to doing in all its facets, the key word is therefore training. That technique over which Europe has a primacy especially in Germany and Switzerland, the result of a great tradition and excellence. Unlike Italy, there are many Europeans who have kept the status of technical schools high without degrading their status. Made in Italy, an excellence recognized worldwide, is one of the key sectors of the Italian manufacturing industry with its four A's: Food – wine first of all; Clothing, fashion fabrics, jewelry, glasses; Furniture, the design of the house; Automation. Yet, with us, the schools in which you learn a trade are considered second class.

"Italy has a long tradition linked to technical training, from which great entrepreneurs, technicians, managers were born, those who in fact gave shape to Made in Italy", explains Micelli. "Today, to carry on this tradition, our country must renew this ability, investing in new formulas in step with the times".

It is not just a question of relaunching the craft schools of the great Italian tradition: blown glass in Murano, ceramics in Faenza, violin making in Cremona, mosaic in Spilimbergo and Ravenna, goldsmiths in Arezzo and Vicenza, jewelery in Valenza. But also to think of the many ITS (ITS (Istituti Tecnici Superiori) and the hundreds of foundations active all over the country, which offer two-year post-diploma courses that allow young people to approach fashion, mechanics, design from the point of view of doing. Which has nothing to envy to thinking, given that the focus remains on innovation and orientation to industry 4.0.

Among the pride of our house: ITS TAM in Biella is an excellence in the culture of the textile sector, with courses ranging from technological processes to design and design, passing through tailoring and knitwear. Children are taught how to work on new technologies with a great focus on sustainability. In the field of mechanics, the ITS meccatronico of Vicenza, which inherits the history of the prestigious Rossi Institute, is a training ground for the new protagonists of chemistry, electrical engineering, mechatronics and biotechnology. A ITS of Brescia who, in collaboration with a FabLab and a Brescia company specializing in innovative projects, made a splash in the headlines during the lockdown and transformed a snorkeling mask into a respirator. Northern Italy is not the only place to host innovative structures. In Abruzzo the I.I.S. Savoia of Chieti is an institute that contributes to rethinking fashion through technology and sustainability.

The future may already be here.