MP calls for stronger ties between colleges and bed manufacturers

Mark Eastwood MP and Marie Gilluley, Principal of Kirklees College, have called for stronger ties between the College and furniture and bedding manufacturers.

In their “Let’s Talk Real Skills” roundtable discussion last week with furniture and bed manufacturers, including NBF members Shire Beds, Jaybe, John Cottons and Bodyease as well as the NBF’s Jessica Alexander and Simon Williams, attendees highlighted the importance of developing skills locally and making the industry more attractive to young people.

Despite being one of the top furniture and bedding manufacturing hubs in the UK, Kirklees-based manufacturers have often struggled to attract and retain local workers. Kirklees College believes that it may have a valuable role to play in upskilling existing workforces as well as developing apprenticeship and training programmes to match the needs of local businesses. Apprenticeships have been linked with higher retention, productivity and morale, and were a focus of the Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ in July last year. Employers were offered an extra £2000 for taking on new young apprentices, among a range of measures designed to improve skills.

Last Friday’s event was chaired by Mark Eastwood, Member of Parliament for Dewsbury, who drew on contacts from his pre-election career to bring together local businesses, the College and industry bodies. Prior to his election, Mr Eastwood worked for the likes of Gresham, Senator International and Teal Healthcare, spanning over 15 years. He also sits as the Vice-Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Furniture Industry.
Mr Eastwood said:
“The furniture and bedding industry is hugely significant to our local economy and it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that the right skills for the industry can be found locally. Addressing this issue was one of my key election promises and I am pleased to be able to work with the College and assist where I can. Friday’s event was very productive, and I look forward facilitating further engagement with the College and the industry.”

Marie Gilluley, Principal of Kirklees College said:
“Kirklees College is committed to supporting all residents and businesses across Kirklees with their skills and development needs. We have made significant investment in Dewsbury recently and are very pleased to have the opportunity to be working more closely with employers from the furniture and bed manufacturing sector which is so important to the economy of North Kirklees.”

Sir Anthony Ullmann, Chairman and CEO of Shackletons commented:
“As we continue our growth, it is vital that we are able to add to our existing skilled workforce. Employing local people who have the opportunity to learn those skills will allow our business to scale and look to the future with confidence”

Fara Butt, Sales and Marketing Director at Shire Beds and Governor at Kirklees College said:
“I welcome the initiative by Mark Eastwood to look at closer partnerships between the education and business sector. The shortage of skills, particularly digital skills requires addressing urgently to ensure businesses innovate and thrive and for the local economy to prosper.”

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