Use training providers or risk losing them, was the warning by the chairman of the Furniture and Interiors Education Skills and Training Alliance (FIESTA) Gary Baker at its Closing the Gap conference.
Held at the Furniture Makers’ Hall in London, the conference was organised to information companies how the skills gap will affect employment opportunities in the furniture and interiors industry.
Baker reminded delegates FIESTA was formed after the publication of the Mind the Gap report by the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) in 2015.
The report found, of the companies surveyed, over 50% had a workforce over the age of 40 and half of the employers said they didn’t need apprentices or know where to find them.
Four years later and FIESTA reported the hope the apprenticeship levy, introduced in May 2017, would support businesses to recruit and retain new staff had dissipated.
The Department of Education’s monthly apprenticeship statistics revealed starts were down 21% on the same month in 2017, before the levy was introduced.
FIESTA also reported research from the British Furniture Confederation revealed 79% of employers, in the furniture industry, are concerned their ability to recruit skilled staff will not improve over the next three years.
Chairman of FIESTA, Gary Baker said: “The message to industry is ‘can you afford not to train your staff?’ Research clearly shows that companies that offer training programmes are much more profitable than those that don’t.
“There is also a very real danger that if large businesses don’t walk up and start using training providers than these institutions will disappear.
“Funding from Government is being reduced and unless people are enrolled on courses, training institutions won’t get the volume need to run.
“If we don’t do something drastic now, we’ll come up against major problems in the future.”
For SMEs unable to access funding, due to Government cuts, FIESTA has launched Skills Plus to train and recruit employees.
Formed through a partnership between FIESTA and Apprenticeship Management Group, Skills Plus offers business an apprenticeship recruitment service, Apprentice Training Agency and Levy Management Company.
According to FIESTA, it will mean micro and SME companies can access a wider choice of funded skills training.
Gary Baker said: “Researching training providers that have funding for your training needs and understanding how to access funding all takes time. The Skills Plus Solution will handle all of this and offer SMEs advice, guidance and access to the best training – from traditional apprenticeships to vocational courses – for new and existing staff at very little cost to your business.”
Director at the Apprenticeship Management Group John Henry said: “Skills Plus will enable employers in the sector to fill their skills gaps and look to establish training and progression plans both now and well into the future.
“Young people entering the furniture and interiors sector and existing employees wishing to up-skill are looking for learning opportunities and career progression, which is precisely what Skills Plus will help them achieve.
“I am confident that they will be delighted at the outcomes the Skills Plus team will achieve on their behalf.”
A second Closing the Gap conference in the north of England is talking place on July 2 at Panaz’s showroom in Burnley.