In the UK alone, the furniture sector is a substantial industry. According to Government statistics over 8,000 companies contribute £11.1 billion to the country’s GDP, which equates to 2.2% of manufacturing output. Over a quarter of a million jobs are dependent on the success of the industry, with 107,000 in manufacturing. Consumer spending on furniture and furnishings equates to a whopping £16.2 billion per year.

Ensuring that the furniture industry continues to develop the most appropriate skills now and for the future, is essential for the long sustainability of this very important sector.

Over 80% of furniture companies state they have skills shortages in their businesses and of these, 60% of furniture employers feel that skills gaps and shortages constrains output and results in loss of business. A third of furniture manufacturers have trouble recruiting new entrants into craft and manufacturing roles. The combination of not being able to recruit new entrants – particularly young people into the sector, coupled with the wide range of skills deficits, is having a negative effect on most furniture businesses, with many employers stating that this results in limited capacity to meet current demands and restricts their potential for business growth.

Furthermore, 90% of employers cite that advanced manufacturing skills, the onslaught of Industry4.0 smart factory technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence leave their businesses woefully lacking the future skills needed and not just with new entrants, but with the current workforce too.

Global Skills Ledger has been working with a range of partners from the UK, Austria, Turkey and Spain to develop an end to end solution that will attract the best talent into the furniture industry and provide the most up to date craft skills needed to produce bespoke and mass-market furniture.

The VET Furnishing Project designed and developed a careers programme, funded by Erasmus+ that will enable employers and educationalists to identify and recruit those budding students with an interest in and flair for furniture related craft. Working with employers, the project created a range of role specific professional skills standards, building on the best practice of the UK, and developed appropriate curriculum.

Finally, there was an emphasis on building the capacity and capability of the teachers, trainers and career advisors to ensure that learner journey developed the competence that so desired by employers.

GSL CEO, Jonathan Ledger commented:

Developing careers information, advice and guidance for both students and teachers has been a challenge, particularly in this dynamic forward looking sector. That said, retraining educationalists in contemporary pedagogy, coupled with modern furniture manufacturing processes and techniques was an even greater challenge – just because of the amount of skills development amongst teachers that was required. I am pleased to say that with perseverance, the project partners won the day and achieved their target to help recruit more new entrants into the sector and to provide the right skills training in the right way, and at the right time.

new furniture skills
Erasmus+ Funded