The British Furniture Manufacturers is one of seven European project partners working toward tackling the industry’s chronic skills shortage by developing an International Masters Degree for the furniture sector.

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

Said BFM md Jackie Bazeley:”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.”

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%.

IM-FUTURE, which runs until May 2019, 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. From there, the plan is to develop training and learning materials for a joint curriculum and e-learning platform that will be freely and widely distributed.

Said Jackie: “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.”

Partners involved with BFM in IM-FUTURE 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.