Many centres of further education are now offering City and Guilds qualifications in office furniture after employers complained that new staff were frequently unfamiliar with the use of basic fixtures and fittings.
"Of course, anyone can sit on a chair," says Sharon Barron, assistant head of pencils at the University of Stoke. "Well, all right, maybe not anyone. I have a friend who seems to find it a constant challenge and, while we're on the subject, she doesn't seem all that clear about the proper function of a coffee table, either. But that's by the by. Most people can sit on a chair in an amateur capacity, but can they do it to a professional standard?"
The new qualification gives students the opportunity to learn how to sit on a number of different kinds of office chair, both static and swivel. They are taught how to manoeuvre without causing injury, how to cope in the event of a fall and what contingency plans to put into effect if they find themselves facing the wrong way. The course also offers modules on filing cabinets, desks and a comprehensive range of trolleys and equipment stands.
"At the end of the course," Miss Baron explains, "students will have a certificate that says they have achieved the necessary competencies to operate office furniture in a safe, efficient and compliant manner. More importantly, they will have the confidence to enter the office environment without worrying whether they're going to be embarrassed or confused by basic equipment. If running this course means that fewer people are going to get trapped in cupboards or injured by drawers, then that's got to be a good thing."
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