24 April 2024, 12:47
By Furniture News Feb 10, 2023

Maintaining pathways to the furniture industry

Collaboration and communication are key to ensuring the pathways into the industry – and within it – are maintained, says Sean Holt, MD of the British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) trade association.

How does the BFM assist with staff recruitment, retention and training across the industry?

Under the umbrella of FIESTA (the Furniture, Interiors, Education, Skills & Training Alliance), BFM works with colleagues from other trade associations such as the National Bed Federation (NBF), The Furniture Makers’ Company and Commercial Interiors UK to set standards for apprenticeships, promote the industry as a career choice, and lobby Government to invest in training and skills for the sector. 

How does the furniture industry’s approach to recruitment and retention compare to other sectors in which you’ve worked? 

Very similar. I previously worked in the printing and leisure industry and, like my colleagues now in the furniture industry, they are all chasing the best talent to encourage them to work in their sector. I do think it’s a case of ‘recruit for attitude, and train for skills’. Employers need to be flexible and innovative if they are to achieve their recruitment goals.

What were your biggest training takeaways from the networking event you held last May?

It was interesting to learn that not all employers are aware of how to recruit and put in place an apprenticeship scheme to encourage people to apply for roles and then subsequently support them to attain the appropriate skills and qualifications. This was the main reason we ran the Workforce of Tomorrow event at Ercol’s factory – for some people, an apprenticeship is a gateway into an industry, and I would encourage more companies to use this mechanism to recruit and retain staff. 

Can you share any examples of innovative staffing techniques you’ve noticed in our industry?

Some employers are breaking tradition by offering more flexible terms, improved benefits, bonuses, and career pathways which allow employees to work in different areas of the business. Some are setting up their own training schools, and others are reaching out to communities in their respective locations with open days and recruitment fairs to promote the variety of opportunities there are in the furniture industry. 

It is a competitive market, but the industry has so much to offer and needs to continually promote itself to ensure its voice is heard. 

How else might the industry make itself more attractive and accessible to new recruits?

Image and perception are always difficult barriers to break down. At BFM, we are trying to support our members and challenge this, via the Future of Furniture campaign, which we are using to promote opportunities within the sector by filming and interviewing real people working in the industry – who are best placed to articulate why they work in the industry, and what it can offer them, both now and in the future.   

Read more about the furuniture industry's staffing crisis in January's issue of Furniture News.

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