Repairers concerned about lack of younger skilled workers

In light of the green transition, people are being increasingly encouraged to repair broken or worn things. "Aktuaalne kaamera. Nädal," the Sunday evening edition of ETV's nightly news broadcast, visited Paide, the capital of Järva County, to get a better idea of what options exist for repairs in a small town in Estonia.

Ivar Avik is Järva County's only cobbler. He has been repairing shoes for 35 years. However, the nature of his work has changed a great deal in that time.

"Once my core repairs were top pieces and half soles; now it's all kinds of forefoot cushioning, especially in the past year," Avik said. "The forefoot cushioning always ends up giving out in sports footwear, and this is the main thing now already."

He noted that footwear often doesn't even include separate forefoot cushioning anymore either.

Sometimes, however, the cobbler simply has to turn a customer down. "For the reason alone that you can see based on the shoe itself that it was bought so cheaply and it's in the client's own best interest not to sink money into it," he acknowledged.

Home appliance maintenance tech Avo Oolberg has been helping Paide residents fix their appliances for more than 30 years. He pays house calls to three neighboring counties that don't even have their own repair shops.

Oolberg believes that each county should set up its own service center where everyone could turn with their troubles. Right now, he noted, people are still hauling their broken appliances to the country's bigger cities.

"The repair shop has actually been neglected because who wants their [appliance] to immediately end up going in for repairs?" the tech observed. "Rather, it's 'We [retailers] could sell more.'"

He doesn't agree with people who complain that home appliance repairs are too expensive. In fact, it's the spare parts that make repairs costly.

"We may need to replace an entire assembly for some product," Oolberg explained. "And that means that the cost of repairing this appliance may end up costing more than half of the cost of the product itself."

Also contributing to the success of the green transition in her own way is Paide resident Linda Arras, who has worked as a tailor for 65 years.

"We're most often brought jacket zippers and zipper repairs, but of course dressmakers still make very good dresses here," Arras highlighted, adding that dress repairs, pants repairs and hems are among other common jobs.

"A jacket zipper depends on complexity — that's from €10-20," she added.

The European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu has recommended the Estonian government establish a central, countrywide website to help make it easier for consumers to find information about local repair services.

Repairers, meanwhile, believe it's even more crucial to ensure the succession of skilled workers, as not many tradespeople are being taught in Estonia's vocational schools anymore due to the lack of demand.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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