Dewsbury MP and Kirklees College Talk ‘Real Skills’ with Furniture and Bedding Manufacturers


Kirklees College and Mark Eastwood MP have pledged their support to strengthen ties with the local furniture and bedding industry.

In their ‘Let’s Talk Real Skills’ roundtable discussion last week with furniture heavyweights like Shackletons and Shire Beds, 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. 

The event was chaired by Mark Eastwood, Member of Parliament for Dewsbury and brought together local businesses, the college and industry bodies.

Mark Eastwood, Member of Parliament for Dewsbury, who chaired the event, said:

“The furniture and bedding industries are 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. The event was very productive and I look forward facilitating further engagement with the college and the industry.” 

Marie Gilluley, Chief Executive and 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, said: 

“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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