The British Furniture Confederation (BFC) has responded to the Government’s Green Paper, ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ with a vigorous call for long term, meaningful and practical sector-specific support, particularly in addressing the skills gap and helping companies to export.
“We broadly welcome this document and it’s good to see a British government showing real commitment to supporting a renaissance in British manufacturing, which is absolutely essential to the future prosperity of the country,” said the BFC chairman, Jonathan Hindle. “We just want to make sure that the furniture industry, which has much to offer both abroad and in the UK – and embraces skills and opportunities ranging from design and craftsmanship, to engineering, IT, sales and marketing – is not ignored in the race to embrace sexier or more high profile sectors.”
In the Green Paper, published in January, the Government identifies 10 key, interlinked pillars of focus:-
1. Science, research and innovation
4. Business growth and investment
6. Trade and investment
7. Affordable energy
8. Sectoral policies
9. Driving growth across the whole country
10. Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places.
The BFC’s response calls for the government to give effective, long term, properly co-ordinated support to its own proposals, not just lip service. In particular the BFC applauds the commitment to invest in R & D but emphasises that it should include industry research associations and commercial bodies, not just universities.
The BFC also highlights the issue of an aging workforce and growing skills gap and urges the government not to turn off the tap on overseas workers before the industry has had a chance to recruit and train a new generation of workers. Given the right support and encouragement, the BFC argues, there is a real opportunity over the next few years to help encourage young people into careers in furniture manufacturing – in particular by not marginalising design and technology education in schools.
The BFC also focuses on calling for government to come up with a fully joined up strategy for supporting exports, which should, it argues, look to work more closely with industry associations – particularly in sectors such as the furniture industry, which comprises mostly SMEs scattered all over the UK.
The Government’s Green Paper, ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ and the BFC’s full response can be found on the BFC website, here.