The British Furniture Manufacturers Association (BFM) has announced that it is one of seven European project partners working together to tackle the industry’s current skills shortage, with the development of an International Masters Degree for the furniture sector.

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The British furniture Manufacturers Association (BFM) has announced that it is one of seven European project partners working together to tackle the Industry’s current skills shortage, with the development of an International Masters Degree for the furniture sector.

The initiative - named IM-FUTURE (International Masters Degree for the FUrniTURE sector) - involves a consortium of four universities and two technical research and training centres who, along with the association, aim to equip a future workforce with the skills to meet changing patterns of furniture consumption – for example, the ageing population and greater reliance on assisted living.

The international aspect of the initiative, which falls under the EU2020 strategy to boost jobs, is seen as critical to the revival of Europe’s furniture industry. One quarter of the world’s furniture is produced in the EU but in 2012 the number of workers employed across the sector had dropped to 900,000 – 13% down on 2007 figures. Asia, on the other hand, has seen production grow by 230%.

Jackie Bazeley, md at the BFM commented: “The strategic partnership proposes the creation of a flexible learning pathway in line with the needs of learner and companies in the furniture, woodworking and related sectors. The International Masters degree will provide students with opportunities to gain additional skills by studying and training abroad.”

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IM-FUTURE will run until May 2019, and aims to conduct surveys, comparative analysis and evidence gathering along with real life case studies to establish the needs of skills and competences in the European furniture and woodworking industries. The plan after this is to develop training and learning materials for a joint curriculum and e-learning platform that will be freely and widely distributed.

The other partner organisations involved are: Buckinghamshire New University (UK), University of Murcia (Spain), The Technical Research Centre of Furniture and Wood of the Region of Murcia (Spain), The University of Camerino (Italy), Consorzio del Mobile SPA (Italy) and Warsaw University of Life Sciences (Poland). It is funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union

Jackie concluded: “IM-FUTURE will trigger modernisation and reinforce education aligned to the needs and opportunities offered by traditional industries. Students and everyone involved will have the chance of increasing their sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, their competences in foreign languages and their skills and capabilities for employability.”