Toy Maker jobs(Also known as Toymaker, Toy designer, Wooden toy maker, Soft toy maker, Toy manufacturer)
A toy maker (or toymaker) designs and manufacturers a range of toys for the enjoyment of children or for customers in the toy collectibles market. The range of possibility is diverse, as it can also incorporate board games, outdoor toys and casino-type games for adults. The toymaker designs and makes toys, and typically operates in two market sectors: toys designed for children to play with, and toys designed for collectors. For the play market, toys must be robust, appealing and carry CE certification. The CE mark seen on toys is a mandatory requirement for products released onto the European market, and demonstrates that the product in question has passed rigorous safety checks. The CE standard is required for toy makers who wish to export their products across Europe. The more niche aspect of toy manufacture is for the collectibles market. Here, the designs tend to be more ornate and focus on either classic, innovative or extravagant design qualities. These products often take longer to build as the consumer market is more demanding. Conversely, the products tend to sell with a much higher mark-up (profit margin) than those designed for the rough-and-tumble children’s toy market. There is a thriving cottage industry for bespoke toy manufacture in the UK, particularly in the collectible teddy bear market. Job profiles can range from the classic concept of the traditional toy maker (a single person toiling away in a small workshop), up to design and manufacture management positions with large, multinational toy makers such as Mattel and Hasbro.
SalaryIntroductory roles with established toy making companies tend to begin with minimum wage which currently sits at £5.93 per hour for a person aged over 21, £4.92 for persons in the 18-21 age range and £3.64 for candidates aged 16 or 17 (source: Directgov UK). As most cottage industry toy makers are small in scale, the possibility of promotion is limited, although the salary does increase with experience and additional responsibility. The eventual aim of most beginning toy makers is to own their own business, where the potential for earnings capacity (and risk) increases greatly.
- Design unique, alluring or appropriate designs for toys before they are manufactured.
- Specify materials and ancillary items to be used in manufacture.
- Oversee (or control) the actual manufacture process and approve final proofing.
- Market finished product to toy retailers, or through the business owner’s means of resale.
QualificationsThere are no formal academic qualifications required to set up as an independent toy maker, although some form of design qualification (either a BTEC or foundation degree) will give the potential candidate some of the skills needed in order to succeed. Those candidates who wish to join established toy makers in an unskilled role typically only require GCSE level education. This might be the result (or reason) for the low entry-level wage. For candidates who wish to join international toy manufacturers, the specific skills or requirements necessary depend on the type of role (and where it comes in the manufacturing process) and the requirements of the relevant position.
- A broad grasp on design principals specific to the toy (e.g. wood, fabric, plastic).
- An eye for close detail work.
- An understanding of how to sell the completed product and its market requirements.
- In the case of a one-man band, the ability to handle administrative tasks and accounts.
Working ConditionsAlthough the manufacture of toys is typically classed as a low-risk profession, those candidates who choose to become employees of larger toy makers tend to be exposed to higher risk manufacturing processes, such as the use of pattern cutters and stitching machines. Health and safety inductions are a requirement of UK law under these circumstances, and a common-sense attitude is required when working in these medium-risk environments. It should be noted that those toy makers who set up as sole traders are exposed to the typical small business stress factors, such as meeting financial demands for materials orders and finding new customers and potential retail markets.
ExperienceMany toy makers begin as hobbyists, where a plethora of niche magazine publications and internet forums can offer guidance and support to budding toy designers in the initial phase of their learning curve. Those candidates who join established SMEs (small medium enterprises) will have access to on-the-job training and additional tutorial support. It can take 2-3 years of consistent approach to become what the industry may deem to be of ‘professional’ standard, and additional years personal training can result in a more innovative approach to toy design.
EmployersMattel, Hasbro and Corgi are three of the notable names in UK domestic toy manufacture, with large processing facilities and a suitably large workforce. Candidates may be able to join these renowned firms in areas such as accounts or administration, before making a switch onto the toy design side. Candidates are advised to consult www.MyJobSearch.com and other careers search sites, as roles do come up on a fairly regular basis. It pays to have a flexible approach and a long-term career plan when approaching businesses such as these market leaders, and also do not discount the possibilities of a move abroad to pursue this career.
Career ProgressionMany toy makers are happy to continue to retail simple designs which appeal to traditional children’s markets, but those who specialise in bespoke collectibles can charge appropriately for their unique and desirable designs, especially in the case of designer teddy bears. Large designer bears can fetch around £200 at retail, and toy makers who accept this challenge then open up the possibility of selling their products to designer boutiques and luxury stores. Harrods of London is a notable buyer of these high-end collectibles, but candidates should note that competition for shelf space is suitably fierce.
= Kate Murray owns and operates Kate’s Soft Toys, a popular Welsh company offering a bespoke design and manufacture service for collectors of unique soft toys in England and Wales.