Furniture, Furnishings and Interiors (England)

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Framework details

Framework ID: FR03035
Issue number: 22
Issued: 22 August 2014

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Furniture, Furnishings and Interiors (England)
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Contact name: Lisa Williamson
Telephone number: 01235 844844
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National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) – Statement on Apprenticeship Quality

  1. An Apprenticeship is a job with an accompanying skills development programme designed by employers in the sector. It allows the apprentice to gain technical knowledge and real practical experience, along with functional and personal skills, required for their immediate job and future career. These are acquired through a mix of learning in the workplace, formal off the job training and the opportunity to practice and embed new skills in a real work context. This broader mix differentiates the Apprenticeship experience from training delivered to meet narrowly focused job needs
  2. On completion of the Apprenticeship the apprentice must be able to undertake the full range of duties, in the range of circumstances appropriate to the job, confidently and competently to the standard set by the industry.

The Furniture, Furnishings and Interiors industry is of significant importance to the UK economy, particularly in the supply of end products for residential and commercial living and work places. The industry has an annual turnover well in excess of £12 billion.

The Furniture, Furnishings and Interiors industries are traditionally segmented into three main sectors which cover:

  • Domestic - serving the public through retail outlets
  • Office - desk, seating, tables and other items for the office environment
  • Contract - furniture for public areas such as hospitals, schools, hotels and airports

The industry also includes disciplines such as restoration, upholstery, soft furnishings and both kitchen and garden furniture.

Proskills identifies that the total size of the Furniture, Furnishings and Interiors Manufacturing sector in the UK is currently around 145,000 people in 12,000 companies. 80% of manufacturers are micro companies operating with less than 10 employees. Around 90% of the industry employ fewer than 50 people.

The production of furniture has traditionally been a skilled craft and, although becoming increasingly automated, the Furniture industry still classes around a third of its workforce as being “skilled trades”. Plant/Process Machine Operatives and Managers are, however, becoming increasingly prominent, accounting for around 16-20% of the total Furniture industry workforce.

A recent Labour Force Survey shows that 88% of the Furniture industry workforce is full time and 71% are male. Many companies report issues with skills gaps with skills shortages particularly prevalent amongst front line staff, technical staff and at managerial and supervisory level. These skills gaps have a significant impact on company profitability.

As well as increasing operating costs, skills gap issues in the Furniture industry also increase the workload for other staff and create difficulties in meeting required quality standards. Around a fifth of companies believe that the skills gaps they are experiencing are due to a lack of training. Over half of furniture employers with identified skills gaps are currently increasing their training activity to address these problems.

There are a number of challenges currently facing the industry  and one of these is that commercial and domestic consumers have constantly changing demands and preferences and they expect very high standards in the furnishing of their living and workplace environments. 

The Furniture industry relies heavily on the skills within its workforce to meet the highest of quality standards. It is vital to ensure the presence of appropriate training for the Furniture industry to help them prepare their employees for the future and to maintain and improve their productivity, competitiveness and sustainability - only by doing this can the required high standards be achieved and maintained.

The industry also needs to improve efficiencies by tightening up processes to tackle the issue of rising energy costs and the need for more energy efficient machinery and processes. Legislative compliance on Health & Safety and Environmental Management also present challenges and place legal responsibilities upon the industry. Global competition has had an impact on Furniture manufacturing industries in the UK and the need for raising skill levels across the whole sector will be necessary to maintain and improve productivity and competitiveness. Low carbon and sustainability will also continue to be key drivers in terms of process and product improvement, renewable and recyclable materials and end-of-life procedures.

The Furniture industry is currently not attracting, in sufficient numbers, applicants from females, black and minority ethnic groups or those with a difficulty or disability. The Furniture industry recognises that it is not making the most of the pool of talent that is available – this is untapped talent which could help to meet their skills gaps and shortages, thereby contributing to increased productivity and competitiveness. Another key challenge for the Furniture industry is that the current workforce is ageing, with a particular shortfall of employees aged 16-24.

The Level 2 Intermediate and Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship for Furniture Industry Occupations have been designed to help fill skills gaps and shortages which are caused by an ageing workforce, by attracting younger people into the industry and providing them with the skills, knowledge and experience which employers are seeking to recruit and retain. In addition, the framework provides a progression route which will help to upskill the existing workforce to meet future economical, environmental and technological changes within the Furniture industry.

The Furniture, Furnishings and Interiors Manufacturing industries in the UK have a long tradition of skills development and Apprenticeships, from the traditional work of the craft guilds and livery companies, through to the modern integration of high technology and hand skills in furniture production.

This Apprenticeship framework provides a suitable structure that will ensure that training and assessment is carried out systematically and meets with the requirements of both the employer and the Apprentice. It may also, where appropriate, provide positive progression from an Intermediate Level 2 Apprenticeship to an Advanced Level 3 Apprenticeship or to higher-level work within the industry.

The component parts of this framework will help meet the current and future needs of the industry: essentially a sound understanding of the complexities of manufacturing processes, underpinned by the appropriate skills, competencies and principles. Apprenticeships in the Furniture, Furnishings and Interiors Manufacturing Industry provide and nurture an environment in which individuals are able to develop a host of skills and personal attributes – all of which will contribute to the success of the industry and to the wider UK economy.

This Apprenticeship framework can help offer solutions to the current and future economical, environmental and technological challenges highlighted above and will help to create stability in the demography of the industry. Apprenticeships will help fill the current skills gaps and shortages and provide a sound preparation to help fill more senior positions in the near future.

The proposed framework offers not just young people, but also older workers the opportunity to upskill and undertake continual professional development as they progress in their careers. Training alone will not deliver the learning required by the current workforce and timely succession planning, for workforce development and replacement, is necessary. Apprenticeships will form a vital component of any succession planning action plan.

The training and assessment described by this Apprenticeship framework are acknowledged as a mechanism to help provide a workforce that is able to take forward innovation and change and to help industries to drive business performance improvements to increase national and global competitiveness.

For more information about the Furniture Industry, please visit

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Furniture, Furnishings and Interiors (England)
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