Back row from left: Hattie Speed, Jess Bowyer, Kieran Gunn, Emily Nickless, Ryan Goddard, Carl Sunderland, Oliver Clegg and Josh Stancer

Front row: senior warden David Woodward, master Dids Macdonald OBE, third assistant Debbie Johnson


Eight of the best and brightest junior employees in the furniture industry have completed The Furniture Makers’ Company’s unique Young Professional Industry Experience.

The Young Professional Industry Experience was launched in 2014 to give companies the opportunity to invest in the development of their employees and send future leaders of the sector on a course of continuous professional development like no other.

This year’s participants were Jess Bowyer, sourcing and corporate social responsibility manager at Ocee Design; Oliver Clegg, junior quality assurance analyst at Camira Fabrics; Ryan Goddard, operations graduate at Herman Miller; Kieran Gunn, technical support at Ercol; Emily Nickless, digital marketing manager at Parker Knoll; Hattie Speed, design engineer at Ercol; Josh Stancer, business development/trainee veneer specialist at Mundy Veneer; and Carl Sunderland, development CAD technician at Parker Knoll.

The group spent three weeks across June and July travelling around the UK visiting 21 companies to learn about the furniture supply chain, including raw materials and components, manufacturing, retailing, buying, pricing, marketing, merchandising, intellectual property, consumer law, after sales and customer service.

The group presented their collective findings to representatives of the host companies as well as other industry dignitaries at Furniture Makers’ Hall, London on Thursday 25 July.

During the presentation, the group identified five themes – Brexit, an ageing workforce, sustainability, online retailing/changing consumer habits and employee engagement – that were having an impact on the sector and put forward solutions to the perceived threats.

Dids Macdonald OBE, Master of The Furniture Makers’ Company, said: “The culmination of this unique three-week intensive programme of zig-zagging around the UK was a wonderful celebration of learning. The excellent presentation, reviewing the key issues within the sector and possible solutions, provided food for thought for us all. The experience would not have happened without the commitment of our corporate members and supporters.”

Oliver Clegg, junior quality assurance analyst at Camira Fabrics, said: “To pinpoint one single thing that I’ve gained the most from the programme is a very difficult task, but it would have to be how much my eyes have been opened to the industry. If you think you know everything about it, you don’t! This really is an unrivalled insight into the furniture industry.”

Hattie Speed, design engineer at Ercol, said: “I found the programme an incredibly enriching experience that taught me a lot about the scope of this industry and the role I can play within it. Meeting other young people also starting out on their career pathways was one of the most beneficial aspects of the course because it made me realise I am not alone in some of the difficulties I am facing, and it gave me a better insight in how to overcome some of my own individual challenges.”

Kieran Gunn, technical support at Ercol, said: “I am so pleased to have had the chance to take part in this course. One of the highlights for me was meeting the other candidates and learning about their roles. Visiting the wide range of companies was very exciting. Being able to see how they work and ask questions about challenges they face was very helpful.”

Josh Stancer, business development/trainee veneer specialist at Mundy Veneer, said: “The most notable aspect of the course was the exposure to a vast array of companies within the furniture industry. The number of different environments we visited and different process we got to experience really shows the depth of the furniture industry. This exposure will be crucial within my personal development and more growth within my own company.”

Emily Nickless, digital marketing manager at Parker Knoll, said: “I found the programme to be a very enlightening and fruitful experience. I personally gained so much out of visiting other manufacturing facilities given my marketing background, which will allow me to have a more holistic approach to my role.”

After the presentation, the Master, Dids Macdonald, awarded each candidate with a certificate of completion. To support their continued development, each of them will be paired with one of the Company’s members to act as their mentor.

For those interested in sending an employee on the programme in 2020, contact Anne Sampson, educational events and campaigns manager.

020 7562 8523