Education and encouragement

28 December 2017

The timber industry must provide effective education and showcase the range of career opportunities it offers if it is to attract the new young talent it needs, says Ridgeons Forest Products buyer and 2017 TTJ Career Development Award winner Christopher Wait

Seven years ago, I left sixth form with A-Levels under my belt and a hunger to work and further my knowledge. In my haste to fi nd a job, I applied to Ridgeons Forest Products (RFP) as a labourer. This would get me by until I found something better elsewhere; surely the timber trade wouldn’t offer much in the way of opportunities, education or overall career progression… or so I thought! Seven years on, I’m a buyer at RFP and here I am writing an article for TTJ on the back of winning a Career Development Award at the 2017 TTJ Awards! RFP has a keen interest in educating employees and providing opportunities for people to achieve their full potential. This investment has enabled me to complete various in-house courses, the Metsä Timber Academy, two NVQs, IOM3 Award in Timber and Panel Products and their uses. I recently also achieved a Technology for Timber (TFT) Woodexperts level 4 certifi cate in Wood Science and Timber Technology.

This education has not only introduced me to timber, but also developed my skills in business and organisation. And the TFT Woodexperts courses have taken things to a new level, giving me a deeper, more professional understanding of wood science and timber technology.

However, having been fortunate enough to attend events and visit mills in the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia, it’s clear to me that one thing our industry lacks is the younger employees needed for the future.

On the face of it, the timber industry doesn’t exactly look “Rock & Roll”, but this must and can change. It has provided me with so many opportunities in education, skills building and travel. More of this aspect of the sector must be showcased to attract younger people. This industry not only offers roles in production, buying and sales, but also careers in engineering, science, IT, accounting and so much more; it is important that we are shown as innovative and offering more than what’s seen on the surface.

With people being drawn increasingly towards IT-based careers, we can’t just rely on them falling into timber. It’s imperative that our trade doesn’t fade into the background and that we forge a way to appeal to the younger demographic.

I believe this can be achieved by showcasing younger employees and encouraging them to better themselves in terms of education and skills, while involving them in recruitment and trade days. Giving them opportunities to show off their achievements should make people want a slice of the action and, in turn, increase the outside appeal of our fabulous industry.

I hope to get more opportunities to impress our trade upon younger people and I hope other companies will see the importance of investing in their employees in the same way Ridgeons has with me.

I’d now like to undertake the TFT Diploma in Wood Science and I will continue to develop and gain more knowledge to progress my career further, while also infl uencing and sharing my education with others