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News Article

Mind the Gap conference tackles skills shortage

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 on Thursday 29th October.

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.

Charles Vernon, Past Master and Chairman of the Training and Education Committee, said: "This was a dynamic and energetic conference, and it is great to see the industry beginning to take positive steps in skills and training needs.

Mind the Gap

"The survey identified that schools need real engagement, the need for action is real, enthusiasm is high, and many large companies are solving the issues themselves through their own in-house training programmes.

"However the underlying concern is that there doesn't appear to be any one organisation responsible for a co-ordinated, consistent, national approach - a champion is needed to address the gaps identified."

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. the underlying concern is that there doesn't appear to be any one organisation responsible for a co-ordinated, consistent, national approach - a champion is needed to address the gaps identified."

"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."

The results of the industry-wide survey are in the report which can be downloaded here.