Mr. Abraham Ekord, a participant at the Aframero furniture fittings training course(left);Mr. Finn Petersen from Bostex Germany; Mrs Yetunde Oghomienor, Managing Director Aframero;Mr Juergen Schoettle from Hafele Germany and Engr. Oyedepo Oladimeji also a participant during the training programme in Lagos

Mrs Yetunde Oghomienor, Managing Director Aframero shares her vision on how to manufacture stylish, good quality furniture at an affordable price using locally sourced, sustainable components. The company has supported furniture manifacturers, interior architects and builders, with advice, materials and value added materials processing, as well as access to finance; and in tackling the biggest challenge in the industry – the lack of skills. In this interview with Marc Philips, she voice her opinion

Q. Aframero is a leader in the Wood working and furniture sectors, so why are you providing training to the industry and not just to your members of staff?
A. First of all, the customer surveys showed clearly that training is what the customers want the most, especially the better established business people who are keen to up their game, who want to provide a better quality product and service. They are especially concerned with training their staff, the machinists, the fitters, the carpenters, all the way up to the supervisors and managers.

Secondly, as we have improved our service over the years, we have found that our staff are quickly poached because the industry believes that if you have worked with Aframero, you will have received good training and you will be disciplined. A lot of the time, the employee has not even completed the training period! This has led to staff thinking they are worth a lot more than we are paying them and they forget there is a learning curve. The only way we can reduce this occurrence is to ensure the industry is trained, that there are more skilled personnel generally and this should lead to less pressure on employers.
The third reason is that Nigerians must retool in readiness to participate in the global economy. The ease of movement of funds, ease of movement of people (especially in Europe and North America and parts of Asia) can only extend to sub Saharan Africa if we have exportable skills.
They must, In addition, be ready to withstand foreign domination in areas where they should be able to compete. When foreign owned companies come to Nigeria, they very quickly become established and successful within a short period. The vast majority of Nigerian companies do not grow beyond the Mom and Pop micro and small company level, In my opinion, a major reason why these companies do not grow is that there exists a severe skills shortage at every level.
You even find that most big manufacturing companies have expatriates in roles that do not need a Nigerian should ordinarily do.

Q. What kind of training will Aframero Working Academy provide?

A. We have developed a comprehensive curriculum based on what we see the industry requires. It includes basics like health and safety of oneself and others within the environment, correct use of tools and simple machines to more technical but critical skills like machining and and machines maintenance. It even includes the teaching of ethics, something which we must appreciate in order to rebuild the foundation of our sector.

Q. Will others in the industry not worry that Aframero will poach their staff if they send them for training?
A. Ha ha ha. I think most people in the industry know that we aim to support them, we aim to serve the industry, we aim to add value, we aim to build – when we can help them achieve their objectives, they are happy and we are happy. We have never poached from the industry, we take people on board and train them. In fact, the reason why training has become a company core competence is that we do so much of it in-house.
Secondly, most of the industry, the big and small players, buys one product or service from Aframero and we aim to continue to serve them.
Q. Plans for 2018
A.We hope to offer more technical training classes relevant to the industry, train at all levels from entry level or even pre- entry level where we will teach arithmetic and english required to understand basic machines to senior supervisory levels. We will issue our own certificate and where relevant, offer the City and Guilds certificates.

Q. How do you define success?
A. Success for us will come when Nigeria rebuilds the foundation for the furnitire industry, from the buttom up with skills, innovation ability etc. The finance that we all say is difficult to find will begin to find us.

Finally and importantly, we must rebuild the timber industry, and this can only happen through intentional, carefully planned, massive reforestation. Availabilitu of timber is a basic requirement for the furniture value chain.
Reforestation, tree planting on a huge scale is happening all around the world. The impact of deforestation is all around us with climate change, desertification, terrible floods, polluted environment. Even the farmers in the rural areas where we are doing our tree planting on JADO plantation can no longer predict exactly when the rains will come or when the harmattan season will start