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

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”.

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.

The proposed apprenticeship for Level 2 Fitted Interiors Installer Apprenticeship has been approved for development by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

The Trailblazer group is chaired by Carl Terlicki of Terlecki Ltd and is supported by BiKBBI and Achieve+Partners.


The group will now go onto develop the full apprenticeship standard and End-Point Assessment plan.

To view a copy of the proposal click here.

If you would like to comment on the proposal or would like further information please contact us.

A group of seven Whitemeadow Apprentices have just completed their Level 2 Furniture Manufacturer – Modern Upholsterer Apprenticeship EPA with Achieve+Partners. Three of the apprentices achieved full marks in their observations and five of the apprentices achieved an overall Distinction. We hope they are very proud of what they have achieved. The apprenticeships were delivered with Webs Training.

Mandy Harper, Apprenticeship Programme Manager at Whitemeadow said “Some of the highest grades ever to be achieved by these fantastic lot! Feeling super proud of Callum Britton, Tammy Burton, Elizabeth Buxton, Georgina Lappage, Stacey Varley, Tara Graney and Kimberley Carter. Top marks once again as Phase 3 apprentices complete their Modern Upholsterer Apprenticeship. All passed with results to be proud of! 15 months of hard work, determination, commitment and discipline has paid off!”

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