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Overview

This page provides information and data on the Furnishing industry sector, which is a component of the broader Manufacturing industry.

The furnishing sector includes the manufacturing and installation of internal décor, as well as the structural aspects of residential and commercial buildings. The sector also includes external structures such as awnings. There were over 87,500 businesses operating within the sector at June 2017, with more than 50% of businesses sole operators and almost 40% of businesses employing less than 20 people. Around 669,900 people were working in the sector in 2018.

The Furnishing sector comprises a number of specialised sub-sectors including:

  • Flooring technology
  • Furniture design and technology also known as furniture manufacturing
  • Furniture finishing
  • Glass and glazing, including designed glass
  • Installation of blinds, awnings, security screens and grills
  • Interior decoration and design
  • Kitchen/bathroom/cabinet design, manufacture and installation
  • Manufacture of bedding, blinds, awnings, security screens and grills (commercial/residential)
  • Picture framing
  • Timber and composite machining also known as wood machining
  • Coopering
  • Piano tuning
  • Upholstery and soft furnishing.

Nationally recognised training for the Furnishing industry is delivered through the MSF – Furnishing Training Package.

For information on other manufacturing industry sectors please visit the Manufacturing and Related Services cluster page, the Automotive cluster page, and the Food and Pharmaceutical Production cluster page.

Information sourced from the Furnishing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast [forthcoming].

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and skills forecasts

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels in the furniture manufacturing sector more than halved between 2002 and 2012. Since then the employment level has fluctuated, peaking in 2017 before falling in 2018 then increasing in 2019 to around 41,600. The employment level is predicted to increase between 2019 and 2024 to around 43,500.

Cabinetmakers make up over 30% of the employment in furniture manufacturing followed by Carpenters and Joiners at 11%. The employment levels of over half the occupations in this sector are predicted to decrease between 2019 and 2024, with Carpenters predicted to increase by around 12%, and Upholsterers and Cabinetmakers by about 2% respectively.

Training trends

Training snapshot

During 2018, there were approximately 18,470 program enrolments and just less than 3,940 completions. Enrolment numbers have declined since 2015 which had approximately 21,710 enrolments. Completions have also decreased overall since 2015, with a slight increase seen in 2017. Subject only enrolments have increased substantially from approximately 140 in 2015 to more than 390 in 2018.

Program enrolments in 2018 were spread across the various qualification levels, ranging from certificate I to diploma or higher, with the highest number at the certificate III level (41%). Over half of qualifications were in the area of Furniture (53%), followed by Design (29%). The most common intended occupations for the training were Product Assembler, followed by Cabinetmaker and Interior Decorator.

Just over 57% of qualifications were delivered by TAFE institutes, a further 22% by private training providers and 16% by schools. Provider type varied by field of qualification, for example schools were particularly active in Furnishing and related qualifications, delivering 54% of training in this area and TAFE institutes delivered 72% of Design qualifications. Overall, around three quarters of subjects were government funded (74%), with domestic fee for service arrangements accounting for most of the remainder (19%). The large majority of students (nearly 80%) were from the eastern states, with 30% from Victoria followed by Queensland (27%) and New South Wales (21%).

Close to a third of training was delivered in Victoria (31%), followed by Queensland (27%) and New South Wales (24%).

Apprenticeship and traineeship commencements and completions have fluctuated somewhat over the years between 2010 and 2018, with a decline in numbers overall across the whole period to approximately 2,810 and 1,180 respectively during 2018. About two-thirds of apprentices were training for the intended occupation of Cabinetmaker (66%), with Glazier (16%) and Floor Finisher (11%) the next two most common intended occupations. New South Wales reported 34% of the training, with 26% in Victoria and 21% in Queensland.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Furnishing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast identified the following priority skills to guide development of the training package:

  • Customer service and after sales skills
  • Digital skills including automated design
  • Sustainable business skills
  • Employability skills for work readiness
  • STEM skills.

The Furnishing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast ranks learning agility/information literacy/intellectual autonomy and self-management as the top key generic workforce skills. Communication and problem-solving skills are also identified by both the Furnishing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast and employers in job advertisements as important to the sector. The most advertised occupations were Carpenter and Production Manager. The Furnishing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast finds there are emerging roles in the areas of design and innovation, automation and robotics, trade and upskilling technical skills, and an increased need for multi-skilled workers.

The above Skills Forecast reports that an ageing workforce in the Furnishing sector is leading to growing shortages in some regional areas and in skilled occupations such as glazing and niche sub-sectors such as piano tuning. There are also comparatively less women employed in many parts of the Furnishing sector. Employers have reported they are unable to find suitable applicants with sound science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills, and some existing workers lack the digital skills needed to adapt to new technologies and require upskilling. Basic digital literacy is seen as of fundamental importance in the Furnishing sector, with the workforce requiring skills in new equipment used in manufacturing.

Training product development activities that are addressing the sector’s skill needs include:

  • Blinds, Awnings, Security Screens and Grilles –Identified in the Furnishing Industry Reference Committee (IRC) MSF Furnishing Training Package Case for Change, are new units to address roller shutter installation, low voltage equipment, automation and intelligent management systems, new materials and their associated energy ratings and fire-retardant attributes and new products such as louvre shutters (timber, aluminium and synthetic), and new skill sets developed to address energy efficient and fire-retardant materials, automation, compliance, standards, licensing and roller shutter design, production and installation.
  • Furniture Design and Technology – In the Case for Change, stakeholders identified a need to update the technical units in all design qualifications to reflect the new materials and technologies being used in the sector and ensure that both Australian and international standards are being met. Employer feedback indicates that Computer Aided Design development is a critical skill, with pre-shaping of components and less time spent working ‘hands-on’ important in meeting market price expectations - this is the most basic skill that makes a graduate employable. The ability to develop an idea into a realistic image that can first be sold to stakeholders and then translated into production is seen as highly desirable, complemented by skills and knowledge in market research, understanding materials, the capability of machinery and technologies and business skills to effectively estimate, cost and quote.
  • Cabinet Making – According to the Furnishing IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast, industry consultation highlighted increased pressure from international competition, with employer skill needs are changing in response. The Certificate III in Cabinet Making attracts a high number of apprentices and in the intervening time since the qualification was last reviewed, job roles and tasks have been significantly impacted by technology and globalisation. Research undertaken by the Western Australia Food, Fibre and Timber Industries Training Council also identified an increase in demand for multiskilled workers in Cabinet / Furniture Making roles and an overlap between the Furniture Making, Timber and Composites Machining, Upholstery, and Furniture Finishing qualifications with the Certificate III in Cabinet Making. 
  • Skill sets in Aftermarket Care and Fitted Furniture – There is an increased demand for after sales care workers, as employers are seeking to differentiate themselves from competitors through value adding activities such as higher standards of aftermarket care and fitting services. Changes in materials, build processes and opportunities are also leading to crossover between the traditional occupations of carpentry and cabinet making which is creating a need for different skills. Construction skills have become a requirement of many businesses offering Cabinet Making, Bathroom Cabinetry and Kitchen Design, Shop-fitting and Furniture Manufacturing.

Links and resources

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australasian Piano Tuners and Technicians Association (APTTA)

Australian Cabinet & Furniture Association (ACFA)

Australian Furniture Association

Australian Resilient Flooring Association (ARFA)

Australian Timber Flooring Association

Australian Glass and Window Association

Australia Woodworking Industry Suppliers Association

Blind Manufacturers’ Association of Australia

Cabinet Makers Association of Western Australia

Carpet Institute of Australia (CIA)

Design Institute of Australia

Floor Covering Institute of Australia

Kitchen and Bathroom Designers Institute

National Security Screen Association

Picture Framers Guild of Australia

Queensland Interior Decorators Association

Specialised Textiles Association

Stair and Balustrade Association of Australia (SABAA)

Timber and Building Materials Association

Western Australia Furniture Manufacturers Association

Window and Door Industry Council

Window Coverings Association of Australia

 

Employee associations

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU)

Australian Workers’ Union

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)

 

Relevant research

Beyond Traditional Apprenticeship Training – Food, Fibre and Timber Industries Training Council (WA)

Furnishing Industry Reference Committee Furniture Design and Technology Case for Change – Innovation & Business Skills Australia (IBSA)

Furnishing Industry Reference Committee (IRC) MSF Furnishing Training Package Case for Change – Innovation & Business Skills Australia (IBSA)

Furnishing IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast – Innovation & Business Skills Australia (IBSA)

Industry 4.0: An Opportunity for Every Australian Manufacturer – Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit 251 Furniture Manufacturing, employment projections to May 2023
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023
    • 3941 Cabinetmakers
    • 3312 Carpenters and Joiners
    • 3933 Upholsterers
    • 8322 Product Assemblers
    • 1335 Production Managers
    • 3942 Wood Machinists and Other Wood Trades Workers
    • 6113 Sales Representatives.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), sex, state and territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 1 November 2018 http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202018?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit 251 Furniture Manufacturing, 2000 to 2018, May Quarter.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by ANZSIC 3 digit 251 Furniture Manufacturing, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • MSF and LMF Furnishing Training Package
  • Design
    • LMF20908 - Certificate II in Flooring Technology
    • LMF30102 - Certificate III in Floor Covering and Finishing
    • LMF31208 - Certificate III in Flooring Technology
    • LMF31908 - Certificate III in Interior Decoration (Retail Services)
    • LMF32009 - Certificate III in Kitchens and Bathrooms (Client Services)
    • LMF40408 - Certificate IV in Interior Decoration
    • LMF40508 - Certificate IV in Furniture Design and Technology
    • LMF40609 - Certificate IV in Design of Kitchens, Bathrooms and Interior Spaces
    • LMF50408 - Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration
    • LMF50508 - Diploma of Furniture Design and Technology
    • LMF60208 - Advanced Diploma of Interior Design
    • LMF60308 - Advanced Diploma of Furniture Design and Technology
    • MSF30813 - Certificate III in Flooring Technology
    • MSF31013 - Certificate III in Interior Decoration Retail Services
    • MSF31018 - Certificate III in Interior Decoration Retail Services
    • MSF31313 - Certificate III in Kitchens and Bathrooms - Retail Services
    • MSF40113 - Certificate IV in Interior Decoration
    • MSF40118 - Certificate IV in Interior Decoration
    • MSF40213 - Certificate IV in Furniture Design and Technology
    • MSF40313 - Certificate IV in Design of Kitchens, Bathrooms and Interior Spaces
    • MSF40318 - Certificate IV in Kitchen and Bathroom Design
    • MSF50213 - Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration
    • MSF50218 - Diploma of Interior Design
    • MSF50313 - Diploma of Furniture Design and Technology
    • MSF60113 - Advanced Diploma of Interior Design
    • MSF60118 - Advanced Diploma of Interior Design
  • Furnishing and related
    • LMF10102 - Certificate I in Furnishing
    • LMF20602 - Certificate II in Picture Framing
    • LMF20702 - Certificate II in Soft Furnishing
    • LMF20802 - Certificate II in Upholstery
    • LMF21008 - Certificate II in Blinds and Awnings
    • LMF30702 - Certificate III in Mattress and Base Making
    • LMF30802 - Certificate III in Picture Framing
    • LMF30902 - Certificate III in Soft Furnishing
    • LMF31002 - Certificate III in Upholstery
    • LMF31102 - Certificate III in Production Upholstery
    • LMF31408 - Certificate III in Musical Instrument Making and Repair
    • LMF40308 - Certificate IV in Musical Instrument Making and Repair
    • MSF10113 - Certificate I in Furnishing
    • MSF20113 - Certificate II in Furnishing
    • MSF30313 - Certificate III in Timber and Composites Machining
    • MSF30513 - Certificate III in Picture Framing
    • MSF30518 - Certificate III in Picture Framing
    • MSF30613 - Certificate III in Soft Furnishing
    • MSF30713 - Certificate III in Upholstery
    • MSF30818 - Certificate III in Flooring Technology
    • MSF30913 - Certificate III in Blinds, Awnings, Security Screens and Grilles
  • Furniture
    • LMF20202 - Certificate II in Furniture Finishing
    • LMF20309 - Certificate II in Furniture Making
    • LMF30202 - Certificate III in Furniture Finishing
    • LMF30302 - Certificate III in Furniture Making
    • LMF30402 - Certificate III in Furniture Making (Cabinet Making)
    • LMF30502 - Certificate III in Furniture Making (Wood Machining)
    • LMF32109 - Certificate III in Cabinet Making
    • MSF20213 - Certificate II in Furniture Finishing
    • MSF20313 - Certificate II in Furniture Making
    • MSF20516 - Certificate II in Furniture Making Pathways
    • MSF30113 - Certificate III in Furniture Finishing
    • MSF30213 - Certificate III in Furniture Making
    • MSF31113 - Certificate III in Cabinet Making
  • Glass and glazing
    • LMF20411 - Certificate II in Glass and Glazing
    • LMF30602 - Certificate III in Glass and Glazing
    • LMF30611 - Certificate III in Glass and Glazing
    • LMF31708 - Certificate III in Stained Glass and Lead Lighting
    • MSF20413 - Certificate II in Glass and Glazing
    • MSF30413 - Certificate III in Glass and Glazing
    • MSF30418 - Certificate III in Glass and Glazing
    • MSF40413 - Certificate IV in Glass and Glazing
    • MSF40418 - Certificate IV in Glass and Glazing
    • MSF50118 - Diploma of Stained Glass and Leadlighting
    • MSM30418 - Certificate III in Fenestration.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 subject enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document. 

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

MSF and LMF Furnishing Training package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2018 commencements
  • 2010 to 2018 completions 
  • 2018 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2018 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority and generic skills data have been extracted from the Furnishing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2019, Labour Insight Real-time Labour Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2019, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2016 and June 2019 filtered by ANZSCO classification levels listed below. ANZSCO occupations have been used as industry filters because they provide more relevant job vacancy data for this sector.

  • 3941 Cabinetmakers
  • 3312 Carpenters and Joiners
  • 3933 Upholsterers
  • 8322 Product Assemblers
  • 1335 Production Managers
  • 3942 Wood Machinists and Other Wood Trades Workers.
Updated: 31 Mar 2020
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