In the 20th century, handmade products were all the rage. Apprenticeship opportunities boomed and so many of the products circulating the country were proudly built in the USA. However, the mid-1990’s marked the “near-death of furniture manufacturing” in North Carolina, when manufacturers began cutting costs by outsourcing labor; first to Mexico, then in China.
Thanks to this rise in outsourcing, we’re missing an entire generation of craftsmen; one polling determined that only employees over 45 years old have the hands-on upholstering experience and finishing skills needed to create the standard of furniture we see today. Beaufurn, on the other hand, has outlasted this outsourcing trend and is taking action to combat the worsening situation.
Beaufurn’s Training Program
As other companies around Beaufurn’s North Carolina home base continued to outsource their production to cut costs, Beaufurn was determined to not only utilize USA-based production and assembly, but also encourage the younger, up-and-coming generation of tradespeople to turn their attention back to upholstery and furniture engineering.
Starting as a cross-training plan with their existing employees, Beaufurn launched a program that provided their own workers in other departments with an opportunity to learn the skills of upholstery and furniture making – on their own products! The training was not a classroom-based course, but rather a fully immersive real-time training taught by Beaufurn’s own master craftsmen.
All said and done, the three-tier employee training program lasts up to two years and covers all aspects of the upholstering process, from webbing and foaming to multiple-fabric assembly and compound angles. Our employees showed a great response to learning these trades, and Beaufurn is proud to continue offering this training program to new employees as they join the family.
“We envisioned this program as an evolution of the old-world apprenticeship system. We’re investing in our employees because we see that as the best way to insure the company’s future….we’re taking the proactive steps necessary in the upholstery department first, and soon in the frame fabrication and finishing departments as well…our staff is the most capable in the industry,” says CEO Thomas Bongaerts, himself a second-generation executive of Beaufurn.
The program is beginning to expand, working with the Piedmont Triad Regional Workforce Development Board to both meet the pressures of market dynamics and satisfy Beaufurn’s commitment to domestic manufacturing and the local community.
The resurgence of “Made in America” in the past decade has spurred Beaufurn’s cause in training and employing skilled upholsterers after a generation of decline. Rather than hunting for these employees elsewhere, Beaufurn has turned to cultivating and promoting them. If you’re interested in joining the Beaufurn team, we encourage you to give us a call at 888-766-7706 to get started. We look forward to working with you!