Northern skills conference to help furnishing businesses access funding for employee training

A second Closing the Gap conference promoting how companies can access funded training for upskilling staff and apprenticeship programmes is taking place next month in the north of England.

The half-day conference, organised by the Furniture and Interiors Education, Skills and Training Alliance (FIESTA), will be held on 18 March at the Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford.

The event will provide an overview of the current situation for both levy and non-levy paying businesses and follows the government’s recent announcement of plans for a new points-based immigration system, meaning businesses must consider how they will recruit, train and retain their staff.

Delegates will get to hear from leading manufacturers that will provide case-studies on how they have made an apprenticeship process a core part of their businesses, detail the benefits that this has brought to their businesses, and highlight the potential issues that may need to be overcome.

FIESTA will also provide a presentation of its new Skills Plus service that provides a tailor-made solution to accessing funded training programmes and working with training providers.

Conference Programme

10.30am – 11.00am – Registration

11.00am – 11.30am – Welcome and review of the current situation since the publication of the Mind the Gap report in 2015. Gary Baker, Managing Director of CD (UK) Ltd and Chairman of FIESTA.

11.30am – 12 noon – Accessing Funded Training for upskilling and apprentice training The Skills Plus Solution. Carmen Daley Operations Manager of the Apprentice Management Group, and Martin James, Commercial Director of Didac.

12 noon – 12.40pm – Apprenticeships do work for employers, an industry panel discussion exploring the myths, challenges and benefits for employers in recruiting and developing apprentices. The panel includes representatives from Carlick Contract Furniture, DFS, Callerton Kitchens & Interiors and Croft & Assinder.

12.40pm – 1.00pm – Summary and Open Q&A session led by Gary Baker.

1.00pm – 2pm – Delegate 121s with the Skills Plus team, lunch and networking.

To book your place, please go to

For more information about FIESTA, go to

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