A series of regional careers events for students who are interested in learning more about job opportunities and career paths in the furnishing industry are to be organised nationwide after a pilot event was held in our North West region and given the rubber stamp by industry.

The pilot event, held on Wednesday 19 April (17:15-20:15) at Panaz’s headquarters in Burnley, aimed to connect young people with local companies from industry, industry specific education providers and provide networking opportunities.

The event started with a short networking session before Phil Hopkins, managing director of Essential Soft Furnishings and incoming chairman of our North West region, welcomed attendees with a brief introduction to The Furniture Makers’ Company and the UK furnishing industry. Marie Rayner, group bid manager at The Senator Group, gave an overview of what the furniture and furnishing industry is and delved into what is it like working in the industry and the different domains of furniture including space design, product design, manufacturing and sustainability.

Jane Buck, people director at Silentnight, presented on what jobs are available in the industry including operations, sales, IT, finance, marketing, people and new product innovation. Jane spoke out Silentnight’s focus on neurodiversity which is a subject area of growing significance and particular interested attendees.

There was another short networking break with refreshments before Phil and Nadeem Memon, group chief financial advisor at Panaz, gave a tour of Panaz’s factory and office spaces.

Nadeem, Nicola Boardman, head of HR at Panaz; and Chris Sherratt, lead employer partnership consultant at North Lancs Training Group, concluded the event by speaking about education options. This included what skills and qualifications are needed for entry level jobs, how these skills and qualifications are obtained, what apprenticeships are and how they work and why someone should consider an apprenticeship in the furniture and furnishing industry.

Karen Stevenson, chairman of the North West committee, said: “Attendees responded very well to the event and concluded that it was useful, informative and inspiring. Attendees were interested in encouraging their students to attend the next careers event which will be held in September 2023.”

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