Free training programmes at heart of new initiatives to boost Singapore furniture industry

A showroom at the Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC).
A showroom at the Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC). PHOTO: SFIC

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) on Friday (Feb 12) announced new initiatives to make the industry "more productive, more innovative and more manpower-smart".

The furniture industry saw a 7.4 per cent growth from 2012 to 2015, recording $6.25 billion in sales last year. But there will be challenges ahead.

A key plank of a new three-year blueprint is the development of talent with the right skills sets, the SFIC said.

To this end, it will put in place a "new training ecosystem", that provides training on emerging trends in the industry, and the enhancement of skills.

The proposed training framework, which comprises a basic and specialised tier, will cater to industry practitioners, fresh graduates and also those making a mid-career switch.

SFIC said all course fees will be fully borne by employers, with funding support from the National Trades Union Congress' e2i and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

"These initiatives are essential for the industry to remain competitive and sustainable. While the furniture industry continues to enjoy positive growth, it also faces significant challenges from pricing pressures, external competition and the lack of skilled talents, " said SFIC president Ernie Koh.

He added that the industry has moved beyond just carpentry, to encompass design, manufacturing, and sales and retail.

Apart from the structured training programmes, the council said the furniture industry will set up its own accreditation scheme that will cover capability certification at the individual level and a quality-mark accreditation at the company level.

It also unveiled a programme to train and place local mature workers, aged over 40, in the furniture industry. The training course will start from the second quarter of this year.

The SFIC also appointed Mr Lee Yi Shyan, MP for East Coast GRC, as an advisor on Friday.

Mr Lee will advise the council on strategic directions and issues relating to further development of the furniture industry here.

"Looking ahead, it would be opportune to enhance targeted assistance for local companies, especially SMEs, to strengthen their capabilities and explore overseas markets to reap benefits from the Asean Economic Community and the various multilateral treaties and tax agreements signed between Singapore and its global trading partners, " Mr Lee said.

Mr Lee added that the transformation of the industry is timely as "we can take advantage of the current softer market conditions to review and revitalise for future growth".