The biggest challenge facing the furnishing industry over the next decade is a skills shortage, and to ensure our industry prospers, we need to address the issue.

FIRA and The Furniture Makers’ Company have co-operated on an industry-wide survey, the results of which have been revealed at a one-day conference at Furniture Makers’ Hall today.

Over 70 attendees discussed major issues including identifying training needs, looking at how best to coordinate industry training  and how to make careers in the industry a viable choice to schoolchildren, students and graduates.

Top industry speakers at the conference included Dr Peter Beele of FIRA; Andy Challis of Proskills; Caroline Gascoigne, DFS; Karl Patterson, Senator; Paul Stackhouse, Burnley College; Richard Miller of Halstock, and many more.

“The conference was really good with excellent attendance across all sectors of industry, training and education,” said Charles Vernon Past Master and Chairman of the Education and Training Committee.

He added:  “The industry is beginning to take positive steps in skills and training needs. The survey identified that schools need real engagement and enthusiasm is high for action and new initiatives.

“However the underlying concern is that we are not making enough efforts to attract young people and adults into our industry and that most companies don’t really know how to recruit.”

Dr Pete Beele, FIRA’s Technical Development Manager said: “This survey of the status of skills and training within our industry forms the basis of a series of initiatives aimed at improving the competence of our current and future people.

“Manufacturing turnover has increased by 11 per cent over the last four years and retail sales of furniture and furnishings are also on the up.

“While global competition remains a challenge, a fully skilled workforce will enable UK companies to take full advantage of the opportunities that this upturn in business presents. We have every right to be optimistic for the future.”


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