features
#014 / 1998

A Swedish exchange

This fall, fine furniture instructor Cam Russell experienced Swedish furniture training and design that most of us only know through IKEA catalogues and outlets. For three weeks Cam was given VIP treatment by fellow instructor Inge Jacobsen (Inge had visited Camosum College and other BC institutions in the fall of 1997).

Swedish school

Tracentrum entrance and the wood machining workshop

Based at Tracentrum (translates as "Wood Centre") in Nassjo - equidistant from the major population centres of southern Sweden, Malmo, Göteborg and Stockholm - Cam was ideally situated for his tours. His busy two weeks included visits to:

  • Tibro Furniture Fair
  • Tibro Gymnasiet (high school)
  • Swedish Furniture Museum
  • University of Linkoping
  • Stockholm retail stores
  • Several furniture factories

Tracentrum programs include: woodworking skills upgrading, high-school courses (grades 10-12), two-year furniture design/production, marketing and co-op projects with universities and industry. Canadians familiar with the IKEA quality of furniture design would be surprised to learn that high-school programs appear to be heavily influenced by traditional craft-based projects, not design-based assignments. The centre's adult woodworking programs do include a design component, something that is not common in Canadian trades courses.

Inge Jacobsen is an Insructor at Tracentrum (Wood Centre) in Nassjo, Sweden. The 170,000 sq. ft., $12 million (CDN) facility opened in 1995 and comprises several workshops including a 50,000 sq. ft. wood machining shop (shown above), classrooms, exhibit atrium and offices for related organizations. It serves as a meeting place for industry research and marketing, furniture skills training, industry seminars and exhibits.

On his return Cam wrote a report for his college administration in which he makes a number of observations and comments about Canadian vs Swedish curriculum. One recomendation he made is as follows:

"More training for the smaller shop or factory owner/manager with actual hands-on experience is mandatory if Canada hopes to rise to Swedish standards. It is unlikely that the Western Canadian wood products industry will begin development with huge factories directed by engineers with large-scale production training. Instead, many smaller shops producing more basic items, perhaps sub-contracting parts for each other is far more likely. In order to facilitate this, I believe that more smaller-scale shop management and hands-on production skill training must be added to the BC post-secondary curriculum."

For additional information about Cam's tour and a full account of his recommendations and conclusions, contact him at Camosun College.

© furniturelink and Cam Russell 1998 (text and images)