We are partnering with the Furniture and Interiors Education, Skills and Training Alliance (FIESTA) on a new free service that will support businesses in the furniture and furnishing industry to close their skills gaps and take on apprentices with ease.

Launching this autumn, the Apprentice and Skills Plus Service will help companies recruit and retain new talent, upskill existing employees and act as a central resource for information, advice and guidance on apprenticeships. Natalie Cole has been appointed as skills plus coordinator and will be responsible for the management and development of the service, including signposting employers to approved training providers with access to funding.

Natalie has 20 years’ experience in the sector. After studying Furniture Design & Technology at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University, now Bucks New Uni, she ran a small furniture design business for 10 years that combined small run batch production of domestic furniture and products as well as larger scale one-off commissions. Most recently, she has been teaching furniture and product design at Birmingham City University for past eight years. 

The service will help businesses looking to take on apprentices with the following:

  • Set up a Government Apprenticeship account
  • Understand the funding and costs involved
  • Connect with training providers offering relevant training
  • Understand off-the-job training hours and management
  • Alongside training providers match your job roles and skills gaps to apprenticeship standards
  • Find an apprentice through promotional opportunities and guidance
  • Understand the End Point Assessment (EPA) process.

Natalie Cole, skills plus coordinator, said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to work within the sector in such a meaningful role that aims to get more young people into the industry while supporting employers with the challenges of filling skills gaps in their businesses.”

Martin James, commercial director at Didac, a training provider, said: “It’s a great addition to the armoury of the sector to have a dedicated resource making connections between employers and training providers.”

Visitors attending the National Bed Federation’s Bed Show on 26 and 27 September at the International Centre, Telford, will be able meet Natalie at The Furniture Makers’ Company’s stand at the exhibition.

For more information about the new service or to book a meeting with Natalie, email natalie@furnituremakers.org.uk

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