Builders’ merchant customers – craftsmen and women – have access to over 40 nationally recognised and funded wood-related qualifications, whilst the timber supply and processing side, post-forest gate, have none. Until recently, merchants have missed out on professional recognition and national qualifications.
Surely merchants and the wider wood products sector should equal other sectors in offering professional careers with interest, excitement, rewards and opportunities for personal development?
Timber users, such as the construction and furniture industries, value their qualifications and thus benefit from a qualification system that drives up professional standards and attracts young talent and public funding. Careers officers and parents recommend these industries; career paths are visible, and career opportunities open up along the way. Employers, employees and the industry benefits, the demographics are monitored for the long-term health of the industry and interventions put in place. Does the merchant industry want to take advantage of a similar structure and the extended benefits?
A number of national accredited qualifications have now been developed by employers, the Builders Merchants Federation and qualification bodies for specific use by merchants and the timber supply sector. The qualifications have been endorsed by the Institute of Builders Merchants, the Wood Technological Society, Proskills SSC and the awarding organisation PIABC (accredited by government regulators OFQUAL and SQA).
Training, nationally recognised qualifications and government apprenticeships are now available in timber buying, selling, yard operatives, sawing, planning, profiling, and primary conversion.
But this initiative relies on employer support. If employers want to see improved quality, productivity, efficiency, retention, self-esteem, professionalism, public image and new, they need to support the work done to date by qualifying staff or taking an apprentice.
Parity with our partners in the construction and furniture industries is now a possibility, however, it really does require employers to respond.
Paul Preston was the Sector Skills Council development officer for these wood industry qualifications and is now the PIABC awarding body officer.