Skills scarcity hampering furniture exports

LAHORE: An acute shortage of skilled workforce is hampering exports of furniture and furnishing products from Pakistan and shipments could be boosted to $5 billion in five years if unskilled and semi-skilled workers are provided training, said Pakistan Furniture Council (PFC) Chief Executive Mian Kashif Ashfaq.

“This sector will need around 2 million skilled workers by 2022 and a higher growth in employment is expected from 2017-22 due to swift changes in consumer preferences and popularity of organised furnishing services,” he said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

According to statistics, out of a workforce of around 59 million, 56.5 million were employed while 2.5 million were unemployed. “Over 90% of the unemployed consists of unskilled people whereas the remaining 10% are those who are educated but do not have any skills,” he said.

Furniture sector has potential to contribute billions

“Owing to a swift change in technology and rapid innovation, the furniture industry is in dire need of skilled workers and professional designers,” Ashfaq said. He emphasised that workers and designers must learn to work with many applications. “They need to develop a clear professional, theoretic and creative foundation with complete knowledge of procedures, techniques and expressions associated with the design of space and furniture,” he said. Ashfaq suggested that in the short term, the number of machines could be increased to make up for the shortage of skilled workers.

“Vocational and technical institutes hardly meet requirement of the furniture and interior designing industry. Export opportunities worth billions of dollars are wasted every year because of skills shortage,” he said.

“If the PFC achieves the $5b export target, it will become the second-largest industry after textiles whose exports are worth $14 billion.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2018.

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