The Furniture Technology Centre Trust (Furntech) was established in 2000 in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) and the Tibro Training Centre (TTC) in Sweden, through a bilateral agreement between the dti and the Swedish Industrial Development Agency (Sida).
Furntech's mission is to be a productivity driven, globally competitive, outcomes-based training provider that offers comprehensive and innovative business incubation services in order to assist in job and wealth creation in South Africa's furniture and wood products sector.
Furntech's objectives are to:
- Provide business technology incubators for the furniture and wood products industries
- Develop business and production skills through skills development and technology demonstration
- Establish centres of excellence in key locations nationally
- Serve as a vehicle to enhance the ability of the sector to become globally competitive
The organisation's Board of Trustees responded to the increasing demand for the organisation's skills development and business technology incubation services by expanding its presence from one centre in George in the Southern Cape to centres in Cape Town in the Western Cape, Durban and Umzimkhulu in KwaZulu-Natal and White River in Mpumalanga as well as Johannesburg and Mthata.
Furntech's business technology incubation process benefits from its affiliation with the Small Enterprise Development Agency (seda) Technology Programme, and membership of the National Business Incubation Association of America and the South African Business Technology Incubation Association.
This process has been enhanced by partnerships and linkages with tertiary education institutions including the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in George, the University of Stellenbosch in Stellenbosch and the University of British Columbia in Canada. Furntech's partnership with TTC ensures that the organisation benchmarks its facilitators" skills to meet the needs of its stakeholders while developing the international competitiveness of all manufacturers in the sector.
Furntech is the leading developer of a sustainable model for manufacturing incubation in the furniture and wood product sector. Furntech's reputation has extended beyond South Africa and the organisation has been invited to participate in incubation conferences in China, the USA and the UK.
Furntech's incubation service is an exceptionally flexible combination of training and development processes, infrastructure, and people that is designed to nurture and protect new and existing small businesses by supporting them through early development and growth stages.
The objective is to develop new small businesses in the furniture and wood products sector through incubation. Furntech defines business technology incubation as the process of providing a protected environment wherein a new business can be established.
The incubation process involves assisting selected entrepreneurs with all aspects in starting up and developing their company into a sustainable business, while meeting milestones within an agreed upon period. This process promotes entrepreneurship and encourages the formation and development of sustainable registered small and micro businesses.
The incubation process has its foundations in Furntech's skills development objectives. The training and recognition of prior learning (RPL) policies are based on the Skills Development Act, and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) regulations. The key component of these policies is to add value to the skills development process so that both the employee and employer benefits. The value adding process is based on the premise that the registered qualifications and unit standards specify minimum standards to be achieved, while Furntech promises to exceed these standards, wherever possible.
All Furntech centres are accredited by the Forest Industries Education and Training Authority (FIETA) to offer learnerships, skills programmes and short courses in the four disciplines:
- Cabinet making
- Wood finishing
- Wood machining
Furntech's technology demonstration service to the industry is creating awareness of new technologies that challenge current thinking and methodologies. These demonstrations are leading to enhanced understanding, knowledge, and acceptance of new technologies, and to technology transfer and innovation.
The success of the Furntech Model is based on the combination of business technology incubation and skills development as significant drivers of international competitiveness and organisational development. Furntech and its partners assist the industry to develop the skills to use technology and to gain experience and exposure to new opportunities in the national and international markets.