Furniture sector to build skills and prospects

The Singapore Furniture Industries Council will offer a range of training programmes. Course fees will be fully borne by the employers, with funding support from the National Trades Union Congress' e2i and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.
The Singapore Furniture Industries Council will offer a range of training programmes. Course fees will be fully borne by the employers, with funding support from the National Trades Union Congress' e2i and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.ST FILE PHOTO

It unveils road map to spot future markets, enable tapping of new tech and materials

The Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) yesterday announced new initiatives to make the industry "more productive, more innovative and more manpower-smart".

It unveiled a three-year "capabilities-building road map", which will help to identify future markets, and develop capabilities to tap new technologies and materials.

Singapore's furniture industry saw 7.4 per cent growth from 2012 to 2015, recording $6.25 billion in sales last year.

"The furniture industry, which has gone beyond just carpentry, is also evolving. The industry now encompasses design, manufacturing and sales/retail," said SFIC president Ernie Koh.

In order to ensure the industry remains competitive, Mr Koh cited the need for skills upgrading and to attract younger people to the industry, as well as boosting the employment of older workers.

It will offer a range of training programmes, and the course fees will be fully borne by the employers, with funding support from the National Trades Union Congress' e2i and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

Among them are structured training programmes - comprising those covering basic skills as well as specialised courses in technical production and design.

In addition, the furniture industry will set up its own accreditation scheme that will cover capability certification at the worker level and a "quality-mark accreditation" for companies.

"With this certification, which requires the workers to go through a series of training... you can have peace of mind knowing that they are able to do a good job," said Mr Koh at the council's annual Chinese New Year reception yesterday.

Another initiative is a place-and- train programme for local mature workers, aged over 40, in the industry. The 244-hour training course will start from the second quarter of this year.

The council also appointed Mr Lee Yi Shyan, MP for East Coast GRC, as adviser to offer guidance on its strategic directions and strengthen working relationships with government and trade agencies.

Said Mr Lee, former Senior Minister of State for the Trade and Industry and National Development ministries: "The transformation of the furniture industry now is timely as we can take advantage of the current softer market conditions to review and revitalise for future growth."

He outlined three growth drivers: expanding overseas, catering to the needs of a greying population, and tapping smart technologies, such as producing a mattress with a built-in sensor to track quality of sleep.

Meanwhile, greater effort towards internationalisation will help firms grow.

"With the Asean Economic Community, Asean is a growing consumer economy, so that should translate into demand for furniture and furniture solutions supplied by Singapore companies," said Mr Lee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline 'Furniture sector to build skills and prospects'. Print Edition | Subscribe