In the third of a series of blogs on how an apprenticeship programme can support growth and development at your business, Natalie Cole, coordinator of the Apprentice & Skills Plus service, writes about the range of job roles apprenticeships cover. Whether you are a bed manufacturer, cabinet maker, kitchen installer or upholsterer there is an apprenticeship occupational standard to suit your business.

What apprenticeships are available

What is an Apprenticeship Occupational Standard and who develops them?

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) oversee apprenticeship and technical qualifications. They approve, review and revise apprenticeship occupational standards; a document that describes the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for someone to be competent in the job role. However, employer-led groups called ‘trailblazers’ develop the standards for IFATE, to meet not only the needs of employers, but also those of the sector and the wider economy. This means that the standards are truly reflective of what is needed in the workforce and the skills an apprentice requires to be capable and qualified in that future role.

Furniture manufacturing related apprenticeships

Over 60 organisations including large and small businesses in all areas of the furniture sector, as well as trade associations, colleges and training providers were involved in the trailblazer groups that developed the current range of furniture manufacturing related apprenticeships. Within each standard there are core requirements for knowledge, skills and behaviours, as well as a broad list of skills and competencies, which the employer selects from to tailor the standard to the apprenticeship role in their business.

Level 2 – Furniture related occupational standards

Level 2 is an intermediate level apprenticeship which generally takes 12–18 months to complete. These are often ideal for new staff coming into the company allowing them to understand not just their specific role, but the broader industry, knowledge and understanding of the company they are working in, the overall manufacturing process and how they contribute and fit into it. It also covers aspects such as understanding customer expectations, quality standards, health and safety, environmental issues, time management and pride in the workplace. 

The standards available include:

  • Furniture Manufacturer, which includes the following pathways:
  • Bed Manufacturer
  • Furniture Finisher
  • Fitted Furniture Installer
  • Furniture CNC Specialist
  • Furniture Restorer
  • General Furniture Manufacturer
  • Modern Furniture Service Repairer
  • Modern Upholsterer
  • Wood Machinist
  • Material Cutter
  • Sewing Machinist
  • Wood Product Manufacturing Operative
  • Lean Manufacturing Operative

What apprenticeships are available

Level 3 – Furniture related occupational standards

Level 3 is an advanced level apprenticeship which generally takes 18 – 24 months to complete. Depending on the requirements of the occupational standard, applicants may need to already hold certain qualifications to undertake one of these. The standards available include:

  • Advanced furniture CNC Technician
  • Advanced Upholsterer with pathways in traditional upholstery and modern upholstery
  • Bespoke Furniture Maker
  • Fitted Furniture Design Technician
  • New Furniture Product Developer

Apprenticeships for other areas of the business

As well as manufacturing-based apprenticeships there are hundreds of others available, many of which are relevant to businesses in the furniture sector, such as sales, warehousing and management.

For example:

L2 Customer Service Practitioner

L2 Retailer

L2 Supply Chain Warehouse Operative

There are also many level 3 standards, which can be a great option for existing staff you would like to see progress in the business. Examples include:

L3 Team Leader or Supervisor

L3 Customer Service Specialist

L3 Retail Team Leader

L3 Transport and Warehouse Operations Supervisor

L3 Retail Team Leader

L4 Sales Executive

L4 Associate Project Manager

L4 Retail Manager

If you would like to have a no obligation chat with Natalie about the benefits of apprenticeships and how to implement a programme, please email For more information about the Apprentice & Skills Plus service, complete the sign-up form below.

Apprenticeship posts
Part one – What are the benefits of apprenticeships? – The Furniture Makers’ Company
Part two – What are the costs of taking on an apprentice? – The Furniture Makers’ Company
Natalie Cole

About Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole is skills plus coordinator, a role funded by The Furniture Makers’ Company and the Furniture and Interiors Education, Skills and Training Alliance. 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. 


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