Key Points:


National Certificate in Furniture Making (Level 4).



Maths for calculations and percentages; English for paperwork and training purposes.


FITEC ph (09) 356 7250 or 0800 11 99 11, email

, website


Cost of assessment:

Approx $2160 over course.

Apprentices' starting salary:

About $12-$13 an hour. This rate goes up depending on skills being achieved.

Length of apprenticeship:

Unit-based but usually three to four years.

Employment opportunities:

Furniture making, programming and operating computer-controlled machinery, kitchen cabinet making, fitouts for shops, motor homes and apartments. For furniture makers wishing to pursue a career path in management, this qualification can lead to the National Diploma in Furniture (Supervision) (Level 5) or the National Diploma in Furniture (Management) (Level 6).

Furniture making suits people who have a close eye for detail, enjoy problem-solving and can visualise concepts in 3D through to the finished product.

Alister Murray, sector manager with FITEC Furniture, says furniture making and cabinet making are much the same thing.

"Although the industry talks about furniture making, the traditional skill is called cabinet making. And the Level 4 qualification is the equivalent of the old time-based trade certificate."

He says 99.9 per cent of the qualifications gained would be through apprenticeships in a company in the furniture industry. "The employers who continually train apprentices are the salt of the earth."

Most of the training is on the job, with some block courses in theory offered, at Christchurch Polytechnic.

On-site training covers working with machinery to mould pieces of raw timber into components to assemble furniture, wood machining and furniture assembly skills, polish or finishing skills, drawing skills and recognition. The other skill is the use of computerised machinery and the programming of computers that produce the machining work for furniture.

Block course topics include timber selection, measuring and calculating materials, drawing techniques and abrasives. There are training manuals for people who can't attend the block courses.

Seven roving assessors conduct 90 per cent of assessments. The assessor is responsible for signing up the apprentices in conjunction with the employer, setting a training plan over the next 12 months and reviewing that. The trainee gets regular visits from the assessor who ensures the trainee has the resources and is moving through the unit standards.

The cost of assessment is approximately $2160. Apprentices pay for assessment but some employers are willing to subsidise this once the qualification is completed.

Adam Newby
Age 22

Apprentice furniture maker at Paterson Crafted Furniture and winner of this year's FITEC Trainee of the Year (Furniture)

I started my apprenticeship in January 2005 and I have maybe six months to go until I finish my training.

Furniture making has a lot of attention to detail, and I like that. I worked for a builder but I found that too boring, so thought I would try this.

The other guy that works here, his son used to play in my old man's soccer team. My dad introduced me and I had a look around at what they do. Two years later I came back and asked for a job. I was going to do a Unitec course, and do the course three days and work for two, but that course fell through. So I asked if I could have a full-time job - and Tony said "yep".

The training helps me learn the basic skills, to use machines and power tools and hand tools. And it helps me with the making of furniture. If I can't get something out of the books I turn to Tony or Nigel here at work.

I was thrilled to win the award but it doesn't make any difference here at work. I'll find out one day if it makes any difference having it on my CV.

Tony Paterson
Owner manager of Paterson Crafted Furniture

Adam is our first apprentice. We have a lot of skill here, as we're not young boys any more. We have a lot of knowledge and talent that we wanted to pass on to the next generation.

The other thing with Adam was he seemed to be at a good age when he started, not still in nappies, and he was keen to learn.

I think it's important to have a passion for what you're doing, to have an eye for detail. Everything we do is custom-made. You're involved with every part of it; you have to think about it. Some of the work we do is amazing - we're not being driven by the bottom end of the market.

We have the practical side of things here. FITEC's really good with the theory side, because at the end of the day, we are cabinet makers, we're not book readers.