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KI In The News

Furniture skills 'envy of the City'

Financial Times November 2013

by Tim Smedley

...Under his stewardship, KI in the UK has developed from "being a predominantly sales-oriented distribution hub for a global company to being a domestic manufacturer." During that time he has seen British furniture manufacturing "attacked and decimated" by competitors, such as those from China.

But he sees the tide turning. "Labour costs are rising in China, cost of freight is rising, and we've been able to hold our labour rates steady here," he says. "The argument now would appear to be to manufacture in the UK.

"The problem now is that because our industry has shrunk so enormously, we have a skills deficit. All the pundits that said we will have a problem with skills through growth are now proving to be right."

This is where the livery company can help. Each master has a one-year term and Mr Hindle intends to use his to focus on skills and education. "I want to encourage more people to come into the industry," he says, identifying five tiers: schools, apprenticeships, higher education, internships and mentoring within the industry.

But it is schools that he feels most passionate about. His belief is that promoting the industry must start with the very young, and the livery company has produced a book, jointly with London's Victoria and Albert Museum, called Modern British Furniture Design since 1945. It will be given to schoolchildren as a design award. The aim is for 250 schools to receive the prize before Mr Hindle's tenure ends in May 2014, and 1,000 within three years...

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