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Apprenticeships and training explored at Furniture Makers’ second Best Practice Day

Vertically integrated sofa business DFS and Linear Consulting gave a masterclass in apprenticeships and staff training at the second Furniture Makers’ Best Practice Day in May.

Organised exclusively for corporate members of The Furniture Makers’ Company, the Best Practice Day is designed to facilitate open innovation and shared learning among businesses.

The biannual event is hosted by a corporate member with each workshop focusing on a particular theme that the hosting company excels in.

The theme of the day was ‘The Keys to Successful Apprenticeships and Staff Development’.

Caroline Gascoigne, national qualifications manager for DFS, kicked off the day by describing the journey DFS have been on since identifying a need for succession planning to replace skilled workers due for retirement.

One of the key business drivers behind DFS making this investment in training and development was the realisation that over the next five years more than 25 experienced service managers were due to retire.

A solid apprenticeship and development scheme was implemented to deal with this challenge and the potential impact it would have on the business.

She explained that although their initial plans required some refinement and adjustment, DFS had seen real benefit from developing the program in a relatively short period of time.

Next, Peter Holland, principal of Linear Consulting, addressed some of the challenges in selecting the ideal candidate, some winning attributes and how to identify them at the interview stage.

He shared tools to improve post interview candidate assessments and practical ways to increase staff retention by focusing on improving the on-boarding process during the vital first 90 days.

Caroline gave the group guidance on developing a solid strategy, the various delivery models and some specific steps to building an apprenticeship program. She also explained how to leverage the Apprenticeship Levy and the impact higher apprenticeships can have to upskill existing staff members in more senior roles.

Organiser of the Best Practice Day, Peter Holland said: “Everyone clearly enjoyed hearing the first-hand experiences of Nathan, Sam and Rachel, all of whom graduated from the apprenticeship scheme from different company departments. They shared their challenges and high points during the process and what attracted them as young people to the scheme, together with their goals for future career development at the company.

“It was encouraging to see the positive impact this apprenticeship scheme has had on the lives of young people and the genuine value that DFS has received from investing in their staff development. At the conclusion of the day, we were all better informed and felt in a position to make some improvements to our own development plans.”

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