AICC, between grand events and education

In September 2022, the third IULTCS EuroCongress, Europe’s most prominent congress for the sector, under the title “Rinascimento: The Next Leather Generation”, will be hosted in Italy and its management has been entrusted to AICC, the Italian Association of Leather Chemists: the event will be held in Vicenza, at the Fiera di Vicenza fairgrounds, co-organized with the Arzignano district, UNIC, ASSOMAC and UNPAC. Here is our interview to Roberto Mecenero, the Association’s national president

The Italian Association of Leather Chemists, engaged in volunteering activities, in supporting young students and in the organization of an international event, the latter scheduled to take place in ten months in Vicenza province. These are some of the topics outlined by Roberto Mecenero, national president of AICC, when we met him at Conceria Dani, tannery based in Arzignano of which he has been a partner for several decades. Over 45 years of experience in the business, a long-standing expertise, Mecenero and his fellow councillors are pursuing a true mission: they have taken on their office out of pure generosity and spirit of service, earning no salary or reimbursement.
“Ours is a true mission,” confirmed Roberto Mecenero, “we are driven by passion. Scheduled meetings usually take place after 6.30 pm or even at 8.30 pm, outside working hours, while refresher seminars for partners (on average, one every two months) are held in the evening or on Saturday morning. We are the largest industry association, as we can rely on 450 members nationwide, out of which approximately 300 are based in Arzignano area. Ten years or so ago, there were no more than thirty in the same territory. In the pre-Covid period, we reached almost 600 members, but the pandemic affected deeply our sector as well as many other fields. AICC was established back in 1904, therefore it boasts more than one hundred years of history. The Association’s yearly membership fee amounts to 60 euros, an affordable sum. Worth mentioning also the fact that half of our budget is used for scholarships for the sector’s students and for the publications, focused on tanning culture, distributed between Veneto, Tuscany and Campania.”
What goals have you set for the Association?
“The key objective lies in fostering the dissemination of tanning technology. There are other pivotal themes such as environmental safeguard, the importance of communication, the right sector’s image, the update of relevant regulations. Another issue we have been paying close attention to concerns the students attending the tanning institute in Arzignano, a school established to train a technical-commercial figure that, over the years, has become increasingly complex, now requiring a completely different education compared to 30-40 years ago, when school leavers were able to run in full autonomy a tannery.”
What can you tell us about the new educational programmes?
“We have promoted the two-year refresher course for young graduates, supported economically by the Veneto region as well. A feat we are very proud of. As AICC Veneto, we first dreamt of, then outlined and arranged a programme together with the Leather District: four years ago, we kicked off the post-diploma course, managed by the Cosmo Fashion Academy in Padua, scheduled every two years. Every year entails 1000 hours of lessons, out of which 600 held in classrooms and the remaining 400 are dedicated to internships in local enterprises. The number of available spots ranges from a minimum of 20 up to a maximum of 25; we can also confirm the participation of graduates proceeding from other schools, for instance accounting, and of a few foreigners, who maybe have just arrived in Italy: we have recently welcomed a Pakistani boy, we are now checking if the diploma he got in his own country can be recognized here. As it happens in German polytechnic institutes, half of the hours in the classroom are taught by active tanning technicians, all boasting remarkable professional experiences. 95% of the students manages to immediately find employment, the others either travel abroad or choose to attend university: there is an agreement in force with the university in Padua, the chemistry department acknowledges two exams taken in Arzignano, including inorganic chemistry, thus confirming the Course’s professionalism.”
Let’s talk about next year’s event in Vicenza that you are organizing…
“AICC has been entrusted with the organization of the third IULTCS EuroCongress, an international itinerant event that will give us the chance to put in the limelight the excellence of Italian leather culture and leadership, two features whose prominence is acknowledged worldwide. After a few meetings, we chose Veneto, more specifically the Fiera di Vicenza fairgrounds, where the congress will take place from September 18th to 20th, 2022. We have picked Vicenza for logistics-related reasons, not only for the remarkable accommodation capacity, but also because the exhibition centre hosts the Sala Palladio, a room featuring 650 seats, an ideal location in case social distancing regulations should still be in force. The facility is provided with large pavilions, thus giving to our sponsors the chance to set up, if required, stands, posters and much more.”
How is the organization progressing?
“We started back in summer 2020; therefore, we can say that we are going to work on this project for more than two years. In addition to the direct organization carried out by AICC, especially by the Veneto-based branch, we are supported by other pivotal industry associations such as ASSOMAC, Distretto Veneto della Pelle, UNPAC and UNIC. We have also chosen the official title of the event, that is, “Rinascimento: The Next Leather Generation (Renaissance: The Next Leather Generation, editor’s note)”. Given the complexity of the whole project organization-wise, we chose, right from the beginning, to appoint three committees in charge of, respectively, communication, technical aspects and logistics. Moreover, in late October, we opened the list to gather presentations proposals: later, a board of experts will pick the 30 most interesting lectures by scientists, university professors, entrepreneurs, and tanning technicians, both Italian and foreign ones. They will take the stage and, in a determined amount of time, will share their speeches, then a brief debate will ensue. We have already received some proposals from non-European countries, the very first one was a technician working in a tannery in Morocco, followed by Indian professionals. The goal is to give space to everyone: those who, for time-related reasons, will not go on stage, will be provided with a “banner”, visible to all, to showcase their project.”
What is your goal in terms of overall turnout?
“With a pinch of pride and confidence, we think we can bring together 400 attendees, including a hundred or so students proceeding from Italian schools specialized in the leather sector. We rely also on a good response by entrepreneurs, technicians and professionals coming from Veneto, Tuscany, Campania, Lombardy and Piedmont. The 2019 IULTCS World Congress held in Dresden managed to welcome approximately 450 participants, while the figure registered at the event that took place this year in Addis Ababa was far lower, due to issues to related to the health pandemic. We will be lucky enough, because the Vicenza-based EuroCongress is scheduled in between two world events featuring, unlike past editions, limited attendance, that is, the one organized in Ethiopia and the following one in China. We believe that even though ours is a European congress, it will be very similar to a world one in terms of overall turnout and of lectures’ variety and relevance. Some of the leading enterprises in our sector have chosen to sponsor the event, while others will confirm their involvement in the upcoming months.”
Can you give us a few hints about the programme of the event?
“As mentioned before, it will be a “three-day” event, with the chance to arrive on September 18th, 2022: in the afternoon, we have arranged a visit to the Palladian Villas and to city museums, while, for the evening, we have rented the Olympic Theatre in order to provide our guests with a private show. The exhibition centre will host the congress on Monday and on Tuesday morning (September 19th and 20th); in the afternoon of the second day, we will go to Arzignano, to visit some tanneries and other pivotal facilities related to the leather sector. The date was not chosen randomly and it was approved by UNIC as well: as a matter of fact, the event in Vicenza will take place just before the 2022 fall edition of Lineapelle and Simac Tanning Tech, scheduled from September 21st to 23rd, 2022. The machinery and technologies exhibition is not a competitor, given that we will focus on research, sustainability, eco-friendly products and processing techniques that can be upgraded. As for foreign professionals, they will have the opportunity to combine the two events, thus booking one single flight to attend EuroCongress and then move to Milan, on Wednesday morning, with the buses arranged by our organization.”

Roberto Mecenero