Apprentices need your help

Occupational Awards Limited (OAL) are seeking furniture industry experts who are willing to become independent assessors to join its team. For more about the role and how to apply see here.

Apprenticeship Standards, Resources & Assessment Plan

Level 2

A new government apprenticeship scheme in Furniture Manufacture Level 2 has been developed by the industry and is now available for delivery. The new apprenticeship standard replaces the current apprenticeship framework.Please see the link to the standard and assessment plan for more details:
The employer group has also developed assessment modules to support the delivery of the apprenticeship. The assessment modules cover what apprentices need to do to meet the requirements of the apprenticeship. These are available to download below:

Assessment Modules:

Guides and Resources
The BFM has developed a number of guides to support employers and providers interested in the new apprenticeship standards. These are available to download below:

Assessment Plan
Furniture Manufacturer Apprenticeship Assessment Plan

Level 3

An industry-specific Level 3 Furniture Apprenticeship has officially been approved in May 2018.

The training scheme, which has been funded and supported by both the British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) and The Furniture Makers’ Company (FMC), will cover a spectrum of jobs including bespoke furniture maker, advanced upholsterer and advanced Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technician.

Approval on the furniture designer module is expected to follow shortly.

Said Jackie Bazeley, BFM md: “Apprenticeships are a great way to bring a fresh perspective into a business and with substantial training and development, are beneficial to both the employee and employer. The new scheme will also present the industry with the opportunity to advance individuals to a level that will help fill the skills gaps.”

Said Jonny Westbrooke, FMC ceo: “The Level 2 Apprenticeship Standard was successfully developed and given ministerial approval last year, thanks to the support of the furnishing industry. A Level 3 Standard is now desperately needed for school leavers who meet the entry requirements for the higher level. We are pleased that approval has been granted so work can now start on the development of the Bespoke Furniture Maker, Advanced Upholsterer and Advanced Furniture CNC Technician standards.”

For further information, go to contact below and post your enquiry to Lisa.

Furniture Industry Qualifications

For employees who don’t require substantial training there are a number of furniture industry qualifications available.  These have been developed in conjunction with employers to ensure they meet the skills required in the industry.  For details of all the current qualifications available please see:

Furniture Industry Qualifications:
OAL L2 in Und FFI Industry Leaflet 
OAL L2 NVQ Fitted Furniture Installation Leaflet
OAL L2 NVQ Bed Making Leaflet
OAL L2 NVQ Finishing Furniture Leaflet
OAL L2 NVQ Foam Conversion Leaflet
OAL L2 NVQ for Furniture CNC Technician Leaflet
OAL L2 NVQ in Furniture Making Leaflet
OAL L2 NVQ in Furniture Restoration Leaflet
OAL L2 NVQ in Modern Furniture Service Repair Leaflet
OAL L2 NVQ in Modern Upholstery Leaflet
OAL L2 NVQ in Woodmachining Leaflet

Apprenticeship levy

You will need to pay the apprenticeship levy if you are an employer, in any sector, with a pay bill of more than £3 million each year.

The levy will be charged at a rate of 0.5% of your annual pay bill. You will have a levy allowance of £15,000 per year to offset against the levy you must pay. This means you will only pay the levy if your pay bill exceeds £3 million in a given year.

Proposals for funding
How it will work
On-line calculator

Draft legislation: regulations for the calculation, payment and recovery of Apprenticeship Levy

HM Revenue and Customs has published in September 2016 a technical consultation on the first set of draft regulations for the Apprenticeship Levy.

The consultation requests comments on the proposed regulations which cover the calculation, reporting and payment of the Apprenticeship Levy. HM Revenue and Customs state that the consultation will be of interest to employers who are likely to have to pay the levy, employer advisers and payroll agencies.

The draft regulations are available online here. Responses should be sent by 14 November 2016.

Funding (England)

Training Providers will be able to provide information on the funding available for apprenticeships and qualifications.  If you are interested in holding a direct contract with Government to draw down funding please see the detailed information on the Skills Funding Agency’s funding rules please see:

See also Apprenticeship Funding in England from May 2017


Information will be available soon.


There are a number of training providers accredited to deliver the furniture qualifications and apprenticeships.  These providers meet rigorous quality assurance standards and have experience in working with the industry. Please see:

Find apprenticeship training

The Skills Funding Agency has developed a web site to all employers to find apprentice training providers.  The site may be accessed here.

It is quite a useful tool and looks at employer satisfaction, pass rates, etc., as well as a detailed overview of the provider with their contact details.


11th May 2017

A proposal for closing the skills gap
Martin James of Didac (a training provider for the Furniture Industry in Bristol) has put a proposal forward (via the Education and Training Committee of The Furniture Makers) in regard to the new apprenticeship levy and other changes to the process.

This proposes the employment of a dedicated “Apprenticeship Training Agency” to facilitate the recruitment, employment and placement of apprentices. This would have an associated cost but would alleviate the administrative burden that may be discouraging companies from maximising the benefits to be gained by taking on apprentices. For this to work there needs to be “buy in” from the employers and providers.

Any comments you may have should be sent to here.

Further information
Didac Furniture Skills Proposal 
Apprentice Levy Impact - Furniture Industry 

The proposal, along with many other areas concerned with the new apprenticeship levy will be discussed at The Bridging the Gap conference on Thursday 18th May at The Furniture Makers Hall. Book your space as soon as possible by going here.

18th February 2017

Large employers encouraged to register for an online apprenticeship service

The Department for Education and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) are encouraging large employers to sign up and register for the apprenticeship service, in readiness for the launch of the apprenticeship levy on 6 April 2017.

The apprenticeship service is an online digital system (similar to online banking) that has been set up to support the apprenticeship levy.

The levy will require employers, with a wage bill of over £3 million a year, to pay 0.5% of their wage bill into the apprenticeship service, to encourage them to invest into apprentices.

The online service then allows those employers to financially manage their apprenticeship programme and help them to estimate their financial spend and recruit apprentices through their training providers. The new service is designed to help employers:

  • focus on their business priorities
  • address skills shortages head on
  • invest in the skills and training to help their organisations succeed

Furniture Manufacturer Apprenticeship Standard and Assessment Plan Gets Ministerial Approval

14th September 2016

We are pleased to announce that the new Furniture Manufacturer Apprenticeship Standard and Assessment Plan which has been developed by employers has been approved and is available for delivery.  The standard includes the following occupations:

  • General Furniture Manufacturer
  • Bed Manufacturer
  • Modern Upholsterer
  • Furniture Finisher
  • Fitted Furniture Installer
  • Furniture Restorer
  • Modern Furniture Service Repairer
  • Foam Convertor and Upholstery Cushion Interior Manufacturer
  • Wood Machinist
  • Furniture CNC Specialist

The apprenticeship standard and assessment plan has been published, which will replace current frameworks from 1st December 2016 as part of the Government's apprenticeship reform programme to make apprenticeships more rigorous and more responsive to employers. The apprenticeship standard and Assessment Plan are live here

Michael Dingwall, Manufacturing Director at Harrison Spinks and Chair of the Steering Group said 
“As the furniture industry is so large and diverse the setting of the new standards has been a difficult job. Our steering group and working groups have had representation from across the industry, from SME’s to large scale manufacturers, and trying to ensure everyone had their say and the new standards covered everyone’s views has been somewhat of a challenge. We are so pleased that the Standard and Assessment Plan have been approved and perhaps more so that the approach we have taken now has the required backing.”

“What drove us on was the knowledge that apprenticeships are a good way of getting new people to learn a craft. Up until now there has been no formal apprenticeship that covers Bed Making, Service Repair or Foam Convertor and Upholstery Cushion Interior Manufacturer.”

Occupational Awards, who have provided support to the group, and will become the Registered Apprenticeship Assessment Organisation, said: 
“We are delighted about this announcement as it is testimony to the dedication and hard work which the employer-led group has put into this exciting apprenticeship reform’, said Lisa Williamson, Managing Director. ‘The approval of the new Furniture Trailblazer standard marks a significant milestone for the furniture sector.  We welcome this ground-breaking new approach to robust apprenticeships that the government and industry is taking and could not be more pleased with the industry-led design of this new standard. Congratulations to all involved. We would encourage all furniture employers to join the illustrious list of employers already involved’.

“As well as ensuring the future of the workforce there are some immediate and positive benefits for manufacturers – from their point of view the return on investment (ROI) is over £26 for every £1 invested*. A better trained workforce also links to succession planning, better skills and better products, less wastage, fewer mistakes and improved productivity. The final incentive, for larger manufacturers in particular, could be the planned introduction of a new levy on employers next year.”

The Steering Group have also developed supporting modules of assessment to support the delivery of the apprenticeship, these are available to download from the BFM website, the BFM have agreed to host this information on behalf of the industry - see here for details.

About the Furniture Trailblazer Steering Group
The Furniture Trailblazer Steering Group was given the responsibility to redesign the apprenticeship standard by the Government. It includes representatives from: AMUSF, BCFA, Beta Group , Breasley, BFM, Buckingham Palace, Burnley College, City of Oxford College, Clinchplain, Confortex, Cornwall College, Designate, Dewar French Polishers Ltd, DFS, Drury Adams, Duresta, Fibreline, FIRA, Furniture Restoration & Conservation, GNG Foam, Home Improvements, ISM Networks, JKB Shop Fitting, KBBNTG, Lebus Upholstery Ltd, Mark Wilkinson Furniture, Nathan Furniture Ltd, National Bed Federation, North Lancs Training Group, PH Fillings, Proskills, Occupational Awards Limited, Recticel, REM UK Ltd, Senator International, Shire Beds, Silentnight Group, Harrison Spinks, Simpsons Furniture, Sofa Brands International, Steinhoff Manufacturing, Sylvan Enterprises, The Furniture Makers, VCF UK, Vitafoam, Webs, Wendy Shorter Interiors, West Dean College, William Cook Antiques, Windsor Castle, World Skills. 

More Information

For more information please contact:

Lisa Williamson - Click here for contact details

Employer NIC for apprentices aged under 25 years abolished. From April 2016 employers of apprentices under the age of 25 will no longer be required to pay secondary Class 1 (employer) National Insurance contributions (NICs) on earnings up to the Upper Earnings Limit (UEL), for those employees.  The UK apprenticeship must be under a  government statutory apprenticeship framework, which can differ depending on the UK country.  Evidence will need to be produced to obtain the relief.

Please see: 
Government guidance

HMRC guidance