UK furnishing and interiors companies looking to build and develop their workforce in 2022 are being urged by the Furniture and Interiors Education, Skills and Training Alliance (FIESTA) to take a serious look at apprenticeships this National Apprenticeship Week (7-13 February).

This year marks the 15th annual National Apprenticeship Week, a seven-day celebration that encourages individuals of any age to reach their career goals by building their skills and knowledge through an apprenticeship.

Motivated by the 2022 theme ‘Build the Future’, FIESTA is encouraging companies to contact its Skills Plus service, an approved Apprentice Training Agency (ATA) for the furniture and interiors sector, to find out how it can help them build a better future through the introduction of an apprenticeship programme.


Skills Plus was set up by FIESTA in partnership with the Apprentice Management Group in 2018. An ATA can recruit, employ, access funding and arrange training for apprentices on behalf of employers and is designed and regulated to support both large and small members who wish to take advantage of the many benefits of the new training environment.

As of January 2022, the current uptake of Level 2 Furniture standard apprenticeships is at approximately 1,000, representing a significant increase over previous years. Besides the specialist furniture standards, Skills Plus also works with manufacturers on a wide range of apprenticeships and upskilling, from marketing and finance to warehousing and logistics.

Vikki Atkin, senior HR business partner at Ideal Standard UK, a company that has utilised Skills Plus, said: “Ideal Standard is a market-leading manufacturer of bathroom fixtures and fittings. We initially engaged FIESTA skills plus as a straightforward way of taking advantage of the Government’s Kickstart programme. Our Kick-starters made such a positive impression on the business, we’re delighted that several are now commencing apprenticeships with the company through Skills Plus.”

Tom Reynolds, chief executive at the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, a member of the FIESTA executive, said: “BMA joined FIESTA around a year ago because of the concern that future shortages of skills within manufacturing and installation could limit sustainable growth in the sector. We’re delighted that members such as Ideal Standard are starting to see the benefits of Skills Plus, simplifying the process of taking on apprentices.”  

Companies that have made apprenticeship schemes central to their businesses have shown great success in recent years. Apprenticeships provide people with the opportunity to work and learn at the same time, developing key working skills alongside the theory.

John Richardson, production director of EE Smith, said: “Each year we take on approximately 20 apprentices across our Factory HQ, London sites and CAD design office. After earning and learning for the first few years they develop a sense of belonging and start to really evolve by working to their strengths. This may lead to a change in department or in most cases a step up the ladder to work higher up the ranks. All of our current foremen, managers and team leaders once started as apprentices and we find this really motivates the younger generation, showing that hard work really does pay off.”

Sean Sutcliffe, managing director at Benchmark, said: “I look at the apprentices that we have here, and they’re super high achievers. We’re turning out the highest standards of craftsmanship, not just in our locality but in Europe and that’s down to those guys.”

To find out more, whether you are an employer, training provider or potential learner, please contact Patricia Henry by telephone 07990 002072 or email Skills Plus also welcome enquiries from schools, colleges and other organisations supporting individuals into employment.

For more information about Skills Plus, go to

The British Institute of Kitchen Bedroom and Bathroom Installation is to offer installers easy and affordable access to apprentices with a ground-breaking employer package for the new apprenticeship programme.


The KBB Fitted Interiors Apprenticeship programme is set to provide hundreds of youngsters with career opportunities within the KBB installation sector, tackling immediate worker shortages and longer-term skills gap challenge.

The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI) is today calling on the industry and installation businesses of all sizes to support the long-term future of the industry’s workforce by promoting the apprenticeship programme and ultimately supporting businesses to take on an apprentice, safe in the knowledge that doing so will be hassle-free with support from BiKBBI.

The invitation comes thanks to a ground-breaking package of tailored support for installation businesses that the Institute has developed in collaboration with strategic partners including Achieve+Partners.

Backed by a three-year funding pledge from Quooker, BIKBBI expects this to lead to over 500 new apprentices per year entering our industry. Campaign activity will include working closely with the college recruitment departments and visiting schools to generate interest in KBB installation careers.

BIKBBI is also in discussions with a number of charities and community groups to develop recruitment campaigns within underrepresented communities, helping to ensure that the people from all backgrounds take up the opportunities of a KBB installation apprenticeship.

Damian Walters added: “All of the pieces are in place to provide youngsters a route into our industry, our job now is to help them recognise the opportunity that’s on offer. We’re going to spread the word of how a career in KBB installation offers young people from all backgrounds a way to quickly make a very good living in a trade that’s constantly in demand.”

For more information please visit:

Congratulations to Nathan Thorpe and Alex Derby at Dams Furniture who have completed Level 2 furniture making apprentices in Modern Upholstery.   Both Nathan and Adam have been awarded distinctions and are amongst the top achievers in the country for the qualification.

Alex Derby “Our tutor Mick Scawthorn (North Lancs Training Group) has been very supportive throughout and the help and guidance from everyone at Dams has been great”   Nathan Thorpe “I have found the apprenticeship very interesting and have learned a lot of life skills along the way. I am interested in further qualifications now.”  

Mick Dingwall, Production Director at Dams said: “We are very proud of Alex and Nathan for achieving such high grades and for the way they have developed over the last couple of years. The knowledge, skills and behaviours they have learned throughout the programme have ensured they are valued members of our growing team and we hope they will now help mentor the next group of apprentices”.


Recruit an apprentice is the official government service for posting and managing apprenticeship vacancies and traineeship opportunities in England. The system enables training organisations to post vacancies on behalf of employers to be viewed and applied for by candidates that use our find an apprenticeship service.

Useful links:


Traineeships are designed for young people aged 16 to 24, who want a job or an apprenticeship but who aren’t yet ready, so need to get some work experience first. A traineeship can last from six weeks up to one year but most last less than six months. Trainees spend at least 70 hours on a work placement with an employer. The rest of the time is spent with a training provider learning other work and job search skills, and working on English and maths if you didn’t get a grade 4 in these subjects at GCSE. Over half of trainees go on to do an apprenticeship.

Traineeships aren’t paid but employers sometimes pay expenses for things like travel and meals. Depending on the circumstances, some young people may get a bursary and their families may continue to get child benefit and child tax credits or part of Universal Credit that is for the trainee.

Lifetime Skills Guarantee

Almost 400 qualifications are available to take from 1 April – backed by £95 million in government funding in 2021/22 – as part of the government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee. The qualifications on offer range from engineering to social care to conservation and are available to any adult who has not already achieved a qualification at Level 3 (equivalent to A-levels). The Guarantee aims to transform the skills system so everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives. It will also ensure employers have access to the skilled workforce they need, and more people are trained for the skills gaps that exist now, and in the future.

Skills Bootcamps

As well as the free courses, as part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, thousands of adults have taken advantage of new Skills Bootcamps which offer free, flexible courses lasting up to 16 weeks covering areas including construction, digital and technical. Skills Bootcamps – which are currently running in six areas of the country – provide a chance to learn specific skills and offer a fast-track to an interview with a local employer at the end. Skills Bootcamps will be expanded across the country later this year.

Adults who take up the free courses have the potential to boost career prospects, wages and help fill skills gaps, while supporting the economy and building back better. Free courses to help you learn new skills or change jobs. Including general skills that apply to all sectors and more specialised skills.


National Careers Service

The National Careers Service provide information for parents, teachers, employers, coaches and advisers to support others in their career journey and work with organisations, employers and professional bodies to promote the importance of up to date careers guidance.

Careers and Enterprise Company

The Careers and Enterprise Company exists to facilitate a world-class careers education, inspiring and preparing young people for the world of work. Over recent years, they have established the foundations of a new approach to long-standing issues affecting the quality and availability of careers education for young people across England. Their work began with a transformative employer-led programme to connect business with education. Today, they support schools and colleges to deliver world-class careers education, responsive to individual pupil needs and underpinned by the internationally recognised Gatsby Career Benchmarks.

Train and Progress

DWP Train and Progress (TaP), a DWP initiative aimed at increasing access to training opportunities for claimants, will see an extension to the length of time people can receive Universal Credit while undertaking work-focused study. Initially available for 6 months, the amount of time Universal Credit claimants can take part in full-time training will extend to up to 12 weeks throughout Great Britain – up from the current 8 weeks.

Institutes of Technology

Institutes of Technology (IoTs) are new employer-focused providers specialising in delivering higher technical education across England. They are collaborations between further education (FE) providers, higher education (HE) providers or universities and employers, delivering a wide range of technical courses in advanced manufacturing, digital and cyber security, agri-tech, aerospace, automotive engineering, healthcare and laboratory science.
The courses cover a range of levels including:

Each Institute of Technology (IoT) starts with a group of local anchor employer partners, who are on the license agreement. However, the number of employers an IoT works with is not limited.

UK Shared Prosperity Fund

A United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund, specifically designed to reduce inequalities between communities across our four nations. The money that is spent will help deliver sustainable, inclusive growth based on our modern industrial strategy. The method for doing this is “strengthening the foundations of productivity as set out in our modern Industrial Strategy to support people to benefit from economic prosperity”. The role of the Industrial Strategy is heavily emphasised, both at a national and local level, with local areas in England “being asked to prepare Local Industrial Strategies to prioritise long-term opportunities and challenges to increasing local productivity”.

Sector-based Work Academy programme

The sector-based work academy programme (SWAP) can support you to create a skilled workforce for your business. Sector-based work academies help prepare those receiving unemployment benefits to apply for jobs in a different area of work. Placements are designed to help meet your immediate and future recruitment needs as well as to recruit a workforce with the right skills to sustain and grow your business. SWAP is administered by Jobcentre Plus and available in England and Scotland.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education are seeking furniture industry experts to review the following apprenticeships standards submitted by the Trailblazer Groups:

Each of these will require an independent peer review when the standard is submitted for approval.  The review forms part of the approvals process and the essential purpose is to consider the extent to which the apprenticeship would prepare someone to work .

The draft apprenticeships will be available for independent review over the next few months (a review would typically take a couple of hours) and someone could either undertake a review pro bono or apply to join the pool of independent reviewers, to review other materials too, and be eligible for a fee on completion of the contract process. It is not necessary to have educational experience, the commitment is not onerous, and the role highly flexible.

Please contact Lisa Williamson if you are interested in this role or would like further information.

More information on the role

Criteria to become a peer reviewer

You should have occupational or academic expertise, perhaps as a line manager, trainer or technical expert, with enthusiasm for developing people and qualifications.  It may be helpful if you have encountered training or qualification materials before, but this is not essential. Peer reviewers must not comment on any apprenticeship they have been involved in developing.

The role of the peer reviewer

Peer reviewers use their experience and expertise to provide high quality comments on apprenticeship content.  They focus on key quality criteria set by the Institute and whether the learner would reach the level of occupational competence appropriate to the qualification and whether the proposed assessment would be valid and reliable.  These comments inform the recommendations Institute officials make to the Institute’s Board as part of the approvals process. The peer reviewer’s comments are anonymised prior to distribution and the Institute protects the identity of its reviewers.

The workload for a peer reviewer who has a contract with the Institute is highly flexible and can range from one or two submissions up to several a year.  Each review taking typically up to four hours (for which our contracted reviewers receive a fee). A review takes the form of answers to questions about the submission and seeks your views based on your experience.  You are asked to give examples to support your comments wherever possible.

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