The woodworking industry is big business and has an estimated worth of £3.8b in the UK alone. With figures from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) suggesting an annual requirement of more than 3000 new positions needing to be filled every year to support the sector’s continual growth, the requirement for fresh new talent has never been more fundamental to the success of the industry. But, when faced with a challenging new apprenticeship levy, common misconceptions of the industry and strict health and safety legislation restricting work experience, how do businesses attract and retain young talent? 

This year, the W Exhibition and sister show, Elements, are continuing their pledge to help champion the industry’s future and promote new talent in the furniture manufacturing industry.

Lisa Campagnola, event director for the W Exhibition and Elements explains: “When I joined Montgomery in 2014 and took over the running of the W Exhibition, the first thing I did was go out and speak with the industry. Unanimously, there was one area that exhibitors and visitors alike wanted to hear more about – apprenticeships. 

“It quickly became apparent that apprenticeships were vital for this industry but people were left feeling baffled by jargon and lots of questions were being left unanswered. Where do you find the talent? How do you pay for this talent? And more importantly, how do you retain that talent?

“We’ve addressed this problem and this September, the W Exhibition and Elements will be launching its first Education Zone. With the support of our show partners – Didac Ltd, the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) and the National Association of Shopfitters – we will be introducing an area within the exhibition that will be specifically dedicated to apprenticeships and careers within the furniture and joinery manufacturing industries. 

“Whether you’re an employer looking to offer an apprenticeship, an employee looking for your next step in the industry or a student who is interested in the sector, industry specialists, career advisers and business gurus will be on hand to answer questions and offer sound advice.”

Taking part in the Education Zone, BWF’s Iain Mcllwee says: “It is critical that we do everything we can to promote apprenticeships in the woodworking sector. The industry relies heavily on a skilled workforce, with apprenticeship figures around seven times higher than the national average. 

“The introduction of a dedicated careers area means that we can help to support the industry, highlight the benefits of working with young talent and promote the importance of businesses engaging with students who are considering a role in this industry. It’s a fantastic opportunity and one the BWF are proud to be a part of.” 

Jon Gibson, MD at Didac Ltd

Jon Gibson, MD at Didac, adds: “As a national training provider that is deep rooted in this field, the new Education Zone will give us an opportunity to focus our attention on education. Over the last 12 months there have been a lot of changes to the apprenticeship programme and it is our job to guide employers and students through this and show them how we’re able to mould the new system into something we know will work in our industry. 

“We’ll be able to answer any questions or queries you may have about apprenticeships and offer advice on our latest training programmes and new legislation that is being announced later this year. I believe that the introduction of the Education Zone is a positive step forward for the show and will help to promote the industry further.” 

Lisa adds: “The woodworking industry is a community and the introduction of the Education Zone will give everyone an opportunity to invest in the industry’s future. We want to deliver a strong message at the show and offer our support to young people in the industry. By driving new concepts like this, I’m confident that the W Exhibition and Elements will help champion tomorrow’s industry.” 

The W Exhibition and Elements will be taking place from the 30th September-3rd October at the NEC Birmingham. 

On Twitter:  @W_Exhibition  /  @Elements_Expo

• To find out more, or to be involved in, the Education Zone, contact event director Lisa Campagnola on 0207 886 3116 or email at