HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — The furniture industry is back in full swing after the pandemic forced it to come to a sudden halt. Now that business is booming, the issue is finding workers to make the furniture.
Owners at furniture manufacturing companies said finding people who are trained in their industry is one of the biggest challenges.
While instructors at trade schools are hopeful more interest will be sparked for students to take on this kind of work, some companies are taking on the challenge of doing the teaching on the job to keep up with consumer demand.
“The demand for the product is so high right now that we cannot keep up. If we had more experienced labor, ones who we didn’t have to train, we would be able to ship more and meet the customers’ needs,” said Anthony Pennisi, owner at Domenick’s Furniture Manufacturer.
Meeting consumer needs is what it’s all about in the furniture industry.
“This year has been kind of a pinch yourself moment in the industry. If you have inventory, people will buy it,” said Jason Phillips, VP of sales at Phillip’s Collection.
And with more people spending more time at home because of the pandemic, more have been buying.
“We are up close to 50% this year,” Phillips said.
The only problem…
“It’s been very hard to find people and what we’ve had to do is make sure we are as competitive as possible with our compensation, with our benefits, but also employee retention is what we’ve always cared about,” Phillips said.
Phillip’s Collection has about 50 people working at its manufacturer in High Point but needs at least five more.
Down the road at Domenick’s, they are finding their own way to keep up with demand.
“We’ve decided that we’ve been hiring people with minimal experience and are training so we can get exactly what we need,” Pennisi said.
But that slows down production. They hope to get more workers with prior experience.
And teaching an intricate job like an eight-way hand tie takes about a year to learn.
“He’s using coil strings and places them strategically inside the sofa and there’s pretty much no measuring, you just know. So that’s where you have to have the experience” Pennisi said.
Industry leaders said a big part of that problem is fewer people focusing on trade careers.
So how do you get potential employees trained before they walk through these doors?
“You get them while they’re young, they’re going to bring their friends with them too,” said Steve Castelloe, director of business and industry training at GTCC.
That’s the focus at GTCC’s Furniture Academy.
Castelloe is hopeful their program, which pairs students with local industry professionals, will make a difference.
Many times, potential employers who mentor students end up offering them jobs.
“It’s a great opportunity to build something with your hands and have a great occupation, great benefits, be able to stay local,” Castelloe said.
He believes with enrollment in the Furniture Academy program up this semester, it’s a step in the right direction.
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